Itâ€™s being claimed that Peter Handke is the strongest, most inventive writer to have emerged in German literature since GĂĽnter Grass. An Austrian author of numerous novels, poetry, also a screenwriter, theater and film director has earned the recognition throughout the years. In spite of this, heâ€™s been accused of supporting and extolling former Yugoslav leader and dictator Slobodan Milosevic. And you know that recently his name echoed quite loud around the world once again after receiving the 2019 Nobel Prize for Literature. At the announcement on October 10, Swedish Academy member Anders Olsson claimed the selection was literary, not political. It states that the jury actually managed to solve an unsolvable problem and separate the art from the artist. Did they though?
What Exactly Has Handke Done?
Even being a famous author, he has always criticized the position of Western countries. As it is written, â€śMilosevic was on trial for war crimes, including genocide in Bosnia for overseeing the 1995 massacre of 8,000 Muslims at Srebrenica, when he died in his prison cell in The Hague on March 11, 2006.â€ť Handke argued that the Serbian people are the true victims of this conflict and even gave an official speech to 20,000 people at the funeral of Slobodan Milosevic who, when still alive, asked the writer to be the defensive witness at his trial for former Yugoslavia’s crimes. Even though Handke declined it, he attended the sessions and later wrote about them. Then Handke said: â€śI donâ€™t know the truth. But I look. I listen. I feel. I remember. This is why I am here today, close to Yugoslavia, close to Serbia, close to Slobodan MiloĹˇeviÄ‡.â€ť
In 1999, talking about Handke writer Salman Rushdie “named him the runner-up for â€śInternational moron of the yearâ€ť for his apologias for the genocidal regime led by Slobodan Milosevic.
So, this is where the eternal dilemma arises:
Can a Literary Work Be Separated from Political Beliefs?
The jury surely had a deliberation full of quarrels and dissatisfaction sorting this out. Elfriede Jelinek, the Austrian 2004 Nobel laureate for literature and a longstanding friend of Handkeâ€™s said, â€śWhoever prevents an artist from working commits a crime not only against the poet but against the entire public.â€ť Even some of Handkeâ€™s harshest critics agrees that his poetic abilities are astonishing. However, any survivor of genocide or oneâ€™s family member will tell you that disbelieving or dismissing their experience is a continuation of genocide.
In 2008, novelist Jonathan Littell remarked: â€śHe might be a fantastic artist, but as a human being he is my enemy.â€ť And thereâ€™s no ending to the harsh critical comments as well as those who defends Handke. So, is it possible to close our eyes and ignore the fact Handke has been supporting the far-right Serbian regime that ruled Yugoslavia until the Balkan War? Probably itâ€™s the question that cannot have one answer. People can hardly find one and only truth in anything in this world, and art and politics definitely arenâ€™t the subjects that makes it easier.
However, thatâ€™s something to think of.