Following the 2019 Nobel Prize for Literature being awarded to Austrian writer Peter Handke, citizens in Albania, Bosnia and Kosovo have reacted with outrage.
The prestigious award was given to Handke who is widely regarded as an admirer of the late Serbian strongman Slobodan Milosevic, as well as a denier of genocide. During the 1990’s he emerged as a vocal defender of Serbia during the collapse of the former Yugoslavia, comparing them to Jews under the Nazis.
The Times view on the Nobel laureate Peter Handke: The award to Handke is a shameful decision that should for ever haunt the Nobel Foundation. https://t.co/L088GkpSpW
— Besiana Kadare (@besiana_kadare) October 11, 2019
Besiana Kadare, Ambassador of Albania to the United Nations and daughter of writer Ismail Kadare called the decision “shameful” saying it should forever haunt the Nobel Foundation.
'The Academy’s choice to recognise an author who has repeatedly questioned the legitimacy of well-documented war crimes is highly regrettable.'
PEN International President Jennifer Clement on Peter Handke being awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature:https://t.co/sRw532yF4E
— PEN International (@pen_int) October 11, 2019
PEN International called the decision “highly regrettable” due to the fact that he has “repeatedly questioned the legitimacy of well-documented war crimes.”
It was also condemned by Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama, opposition leader Lulzim Basha, Kosovan political parties Vetevendosje and LDK who are expected to form a government, and a number of citizens, activists, civil society organisations, educational institutions, and academies of science of both Albania and Kosovo.
Upon learning he won the prize, Handke said he was “astonished” and he called the decision “very courageous by the Swedish Academy”, despite having previously called for the prize to be abolished. In Austria, his win was widely praised whist the mayor of Belgrade, Zoran Radojicic called him a “great writer, humanist, and a man who loves Serbia.”
Following multiple calls to revoke his award, the Swedish Academy which grants the prize said that Hadke had been recognised for his “influential work” that combined “linguistic ingenuity” with the periphery and the specificity of human experience.”
Handke became well known during the 1960s before growing close to ‘The Butcher of the Balkans’, Slobodan Milosevic who is estimated to be responsible for the deaths of over 200,000 people. He is remembered for denying the massacre at Srebrenica at the hands of the Serbs and he once compared Serbia’s fate to that of the Jews during the Holocaust, later apologising and calling it a “slip of the tongue”.
He later accused Bosnians of staging massacres in Sarajevo and cast doubt on the genocide of Srebrenica. When critics pointed out that the thousands of corpses provided evidence of the Serbs’ crimes, he replied: “You can stick your corpses up your arse.”
The Srebrenica genocide occurred during July 1995 and saw more than 8000 Bosniak men and boys murdered by units of the Bosnian Serb Army of Republika Srpska under the command of war criminal Rako Mladic. In addition to those who were massacred by the Serbs, some 30,000 Bosniak women including children and the elderly were raped, assaulted, murdered, abused, and forcibly transferred.
Handke was said to be close with Milosevic and delivered the eulogy at his funeral whilst he was being tried at the UN War Crimes Tribunal at The Hague for genocide and other war crimes committed during the early 1990s.
The author will receive some EUR 850,000 as well as a medal and diploma.