Why Peter Handke’s selection as Nobel Laureate 2019 draws flak

Two Nobel prizes were given out in Literature this year — making it a first in the 118 year old history of this award, where prize money of more than US$910, 000 will be given to each winner. Last year the literature award was cancelled for scandals that rocked the academy.


Olga Tokarcruz


Peter Handke

The award for 2018 went to Polish authoress, Olga Tokarcruz  “for a narrative imagination that with encyclopedic passion represents the crossing of boundaries as a form of life,” according to the judges’ citation. The award for 2019 went to Austrian author Peter Handke “for an influential work that with linguistic ingenuity has explored the periphery and the specificity of human experience”.

However, earlier, Germany had revoked its decision to award him the Henrich Heine award.

While Poland celebrates the win of their much awarded authoress whose works centring on migration and cultural transition have reflected “local life, but at the same time inspired by maps and speculative thought, looking at life on Earth from above”, Peter Handke’s selection has fallen under much flak over his works that “defend” the Serbian dictator who had been charged with war crimes in1999 and jailed subsequently , Slobodan Milosevic.

“It is shameful that the Nobel Prize committee easily neglected the fact that Handke was justifying and protecting Slobodan Milosevic and his executors (Bosnian Serb wartime leader) Radovan Karadzic and (his army chief) Ratko Mladic sentenced by a UN court … for the most severe war crimes including genocide,” said the Muslim member of Bosnia’s joint presidency Sefik Dzaferovic. The Albanian Prime Minister, Edi Rama, tweeted he felt like vomiting on hearing the announcement.

 The moral judgement of this controversial award has been called to question by writer Rafia Zakaria: “In refusing to choose between Handke and Tokarczuk, the committee granted both undeserved moral equivalency. It is a trick out of Handke’s own playbook — the 200,000 people that were killed at the hands of Serbian dictator Slobodan Milosevic between 1993-1996 were all victims of a war that in 2006 Handke deemed ‘terrible on all sides’. While all writers have the right to say what they wish, what they say has great relevance to the reverence afforded to them.”

Click here to read the full article in CNN opinion.


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