PEN Canada Condemns Handke Nobel Prize 

By | October 15, 2019 at 7:45 pm | No comments | News

Toronto – October 15, 2019 – Adding its voice to statements from PEN America and PEN International, PEN Canada today called the Swedish Academy’s choice to award Peter Handke a Nobel prize for literature “baffling and deeply regrettable.” During a moment of resurgent nationalism, malevolent disinformation and violent xenophobia, the award also raises concerns about the depth of the Nobel Committee‘s promise to make the prize less “male-oriented” and “Eurocentric”.

Handke delivered a speech at the funeral of Serbian dictator and alleged war criminal Slobodan Milošević and publicly defended Milošević’s regime, as well as Bosnian Serb leaders Radovan Karadzic and Ratko Mladic during the 1995-99 Bosnian War. On several occasions, Handke claimed that  Milošević had been misrepresented in the Western media and the 1994 massacre of Bosnian Muslim men and boys by Serbian troops at Srebenica had been staged by Muslims themselves.

“The Nobel Committee’s choice is baffling and deeply regrettable,” said PEN Canada president Richard Stursberg.”Nobody who denies plain evidence of military atrocities should be eligible for literature’s highest honour. Handke’s unconscionable sophistry about state-sanctioned murder stands in shocking contrast to the principled defiance of his fellow laureate, the Polish writer Olga Tokarczuk. Although Handke’s ‘linguistic ingenuity’ is beyond doubt, the ‘ethical blindness’ which has provoked repeated condemnation from his peers appears to have been completely ignored.”

When questioned by the press about the selection, Mats Mal, permanent secretary and member of the Swedish Academy said: “It is not in the Academy’s mandate to balance literary quality against political considerations.”

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