The laureate of new literature informed reporters that it is the wrong time to question his suppport for Slobodan Milošević
Nobel laureate for literature Peter Handke shrugged off questions at a press conference on Friday about his support for Slobodan Milošević’s genocidal regime, telling reporters that it wasn’t the time to answer “ignorant” questions.
Writers and politicians have widely criticized the Austrian author’s Nobel Prize award in October for his position on the 1990s Yugoslav wars. A petition signed by nearly 60,000 people calls on the Nobel Committee to revoke the prize from Slobodan Milošević’s “apologist for the’ butcher of the Balkans.” Handke spoke at the 2006 funeral of Milošević and called him “a rather tragic man.”
On 10 December in Stockholm when Handke is due to collect his SEK9 m (£ 743,000) award, the petition will be delivered by demonstrators.
After an awkward moment that led the room to sing Happy Birthday to the author, Handke was asked about the divided response to his win at the press conference. He responded: “This is a very long story. To tell this story here, I think it’s not the moment.”
Asked about next week’s planned protests, Handke recalled a visit to Norway in 2014 when he won the Ibsen Award. “When I went to the National Theatre in Oslo, there were many protests. A lot of fascist, fascist shouting.
These ladies and gentlemen I wanted to talk to, but they didn’t want to talk to me, “he said. He said that In his speech accepting that prize, he told his critics: “Go to hell, where you already are.”
Peter Maass, a reporter at the Intercept, asked Handke if he would say the that the Srebrenica massacre, where nearly 8,000 Muslim men and boys were killed, had happened.
Handke replied by speaking about a letter sent by an anonymous critic with a piece of toilet paper, “which had a calligraphy of shit”. After finishing, he told Maass: “I prefer toilet paper, an anonymous letter with toilet paper inside, to your empty and ignorant questions.”
The press conference was attended by Jonas Eklöf, editor-in-chief of the Swedish book magazine Vi Läser. He said the Nobel’s feeling among Swedish journalists was tiredness, “has been fatigue, exhaustion and … ‘Not again!’ A feeling that little has to do with literature right now.”
Eklöf said. “There is still a lot of turbulence within the academy, with new boycotts and two out of five members leaving the Nobel committee in only the last week,”
Eklöf added:“About today, what can I say: it was strange – especially the birthday song to Handke – and a little bit awkward, but not as uncomfortable as one might have expected. Feeling right now: just want to go home and have a glass of wine and read Flights.”
Flights is a novel written by Polish author Olga Tokarczuk, winner of the Literature Nobel Prize 2018.
Due to the postponement of last year’s award, her victory was announced on the same day as Handke’s. She uses her winnings to fund a foundation to support authors and translators ‘ which will help “describe the reality in which xenophobic and nationalist sentiments are growing dangerously quickly”.


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