Handke and Heine ~ theatre notes

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Handke and Heine

A final note on Peter Handke, via Pierre Joris at Nomadics, to wrap up the controversy about the Heinrich Heine Prize. Earlier this month, Handke demonstrated considerable public grace by refusing the prize before it was humiliatingly voted away from him by the Dusseldorf City Council, telling the prize committee with what sounds like both exhaustion and frustration:

I am writing to you today with the express intention of saving you (and the world) the bother of a meeting of the Dusseldorf City Council (if that's what it's called) to declare the decision to give me the prize null and void. I'm also doing this to save myself the bother, or rather the ghost of myself which is currently haunting the public, and even more importantly to save my work, or should I say stuff, from being exposed again and again to this kind of ridicule from one party politician or another.

Signandsight publish a very useful summary of German press about this whole affair. My favourite quote is probably from Botho Strauß:
What remains today of Bertolt Brecht, a poet who valued the revolution over human life and whose only opposition to the bloody Stalin was a spot of dialectics? What remains is someone who changed the theatre more lastingly than any other European author... What remains, at the end of the day, of the alleged bard of the Greater Serbian Empire, Peter Handke? Not just the most gifted poetic craftsman of his day, but an episteme-creator (to use Foucault's term) as only the most outstanding minds can be, a milestone of seeing, feeling and understanding in German literature. Those who fail to see guilt and error as the stigmata (or even as stimulants in some cases) of great minds, shouldn't busy themselves with true poets and thinkers.

Though this is probably closely followed by Gunther Grass's testy retort, which condemns the hypocrisy of the decision to revoke the prize and then says, in effect, "no special amnesty for genius".

No comments: