News ID: 262835
Published: 0241 GMT December 11, 2019

Austrian writer Peter Handke takes Nobel Literature Prize amid protests

Austrian writer Peter Handke takes Nobel Literature Prize amid protests

An Austrian laureate Peter Handke whose support for Serbs in the 90s war in former Yugoslavia sparked controversy, received his Nobel Literature Prize on Tuesday amid criticism of him in Sweden and abroad as an apologist for Serb war crimes in the 1990s.

Handke accepted the nine million-kronor ($948,000) award from King Carl XVI Gustaf at a ceremony in Stockholm with the winners of other Nobels except for the peace prize, which was presented in Oslo.

The Austrian novelist and screenplay writer was given the award for “influential work that with linguistic ingenuity has explored the periphery and the specificity of human experience,” according to the prize citation, AP wrote.

Handke has been a staunch supporter of the Serbs and has disputed that the massacre of 8,000 Bosnian Muslims in the town of Srebrenica was genocide.

Representatives of seven countries boycotted the awards ceremony in protest, as did a member of the Swedish Academy that chooses the literature prize winner. A member of the committee that nominates candidates for the prize resigned his post.

Albania, Bosnia, Kosovo, Croatia, North Macedonia, Turkey and Afghanistan boycotted the ceremony and some of those countries’ leaders denounced the prize.

“To give the Nobel Literature Prize to a racist personality can have no other meaning than to reward human rights violations,” Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said on Twitter. Kosovo President Hashim Thaçi said that “justice will prevail, not lies, denial and fake Nobel prizes.”

In the Bosnian capital of Sarajevo, a war victims’ association erected a large electronic display portraying Handke as a villain standing next to skulls.

“As a citizen of Sarajevo, I am horrified with this. He is genocide denier. He claims genocide did not happen in Bosnia. We will never forget this,” said Sarajevo resident Senka Tinjak.

More than 100 protesters later demonstrated against the award in a Stockholm square.

Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic congratulated Handke on his award, saying that “we consider you one of us and a true friend of Serbia.”

The awards ceremony included giving the 2018 literature prize to Olga Tokarczuk of Poland. The prize was announced this year after being postponed by the Swedish Academy, which was wracked by turmoil due to a misconduct scandal.

At the banquet, Tokarczuk referred to the popular movie ‘The Prize,’ in which a man wins the literature Nobel for works his wife wrote. “No, no, please don’t worry — I solemnly declare that I wrote all my books myself,” she said to laughter.

She also invoked the first female literature laureate, Selma Lagerlof of Sweden, who won the prize 110 years ago: “I bow low to her across time and to all the other women, all the female creators who boldly exceeded the limiting roles of society imposed on them and had the courage to tell their story to the world loud and clear.”


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