Peter Handke is in the headlines again, this time after he was stripped of the prestigious Heinrich Heiner Prize by the city of Dusseldorf. Handke was awarded the prize, which is worth 50,000 euros, but it was revoked after heated public criticism of the decision.
I am frankly horrified that Handke's literary achievements can be utterly erased by political opinions he is alleged to hold. I have my own reservations, as have others, about what can be discerned of Handke's political stance, but I hold no brief for misrepresentation and misquotation. There seems to be an industry of moral outrage that obscures any possibility of nuanced discrimination: for one thing, Handke himself is not a war criminal, but a writer.
So much for art. So much for freedom.
Those who claim that the revocation of a major literary prize in these circumstances is not a form of repression should ponder Wiglaf Droste's observation in Die Tageszeitung:
Of course it's possible that Peter Handke has got a screw loose. If you go on a search for the truth, you can also get lost along the way. But anyone that believes they automatically have truth on their side just because they belong to the overwhelming majority should not be listened to in the first place. A writer has every right to his own view of the world. Telling him to be more media-friendly is tantamount to seeking to abolish the writing profession.
Thanks to Pierre Joris at Nomadics for the headsup. Playgoer has some more details.
Footnote, via Sign and Sight:
Handke himself answers today in a short article entitled "What I did not say" in the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung: "I have never denied or played down, not to speak of sanctioned, any of the massacres in Yugoslavia from 1991 – 1995." Handke continues that although he is often criticised for having one of the characters in his play "Die Fahrt im Einbaum" (the voyage in the dugout) defend the Serbs, "the truth is that in the play (page 65), one figure says: 'You know it was we who protected you from the Asian hordes for centuries. And without us you'd still be eating with your fingers. Who was it that introduced the knife and fork to the Western world?' But: is it necessary to point out that this is a parody? or that this minor character's name is 'Irrer' (Madman)?"