The foundation’s decision to award the 2019 Nobel Prize in Literature to the Austrian author has been widely condemned by literary bodies and authors over his past comments on the Bosnian genocide.

Peter Handke is the 2019 Nobel Laureate in Literature, but the decision to grant him the most prestigious literary prize has been slammed by politicians, leading authors and writers’ organisations.

The Austrian writer won praise from the awarding body for “an influential work that with linguistic ingenuity has explored the periphery and the specificity of human experience” but his past comments on the Bosnian genocide have led many to question the wisdom of the selection.

During the Nineties, Handke earned a reputation as an apologist for the Serbian government as it was involved in acts of genocide against Bosnian Muslims and carrying out atrocities against other Balkan peoples, such as Kosovar Albanians.

In one notable incident in 2014, while receiving the Ibsen Prize in the Norwegian city of Oslo, Handke shouted down survivors and relatives of victims of Serbian atrocities. “Go to hell, where you already are,” he said.

The author remained a friend of Serbian ultranationalist leader Slobadan Milosevic, who oversaw and incited the atrocities, until the latter’s death in 2006 while on trial at The Hague for war crimes. Handke visited Milosevic in prison before his death and gave a eulogy at his funeral.

His award, which was announced on Thursday, has drawn a torrent of criticism from varied sources.

Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama said until he heard the news, he had never felt the need “to vomit because of a Nobel Prize".

In a further damning condemnation, PEN America took the rare step of speaking out against the decision to award Handke.

“We are dumbfounded by the selection of a writer who has used his public voice to undercut historical truth and offer public succor to perpetrators of genocide, like former Serbian president Slobodan Milosevic and Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic,” the organisation said in a statement.

“We reject the decision that a writer who has persistently called into question thoroughly documented war crimes deserves to be celebrated for his ‘linguistic ingenuity’,” it added.

The 2019 announcement came coupled with the announcement of the 2018 winner, Polish author Olga Tokarczuk. Last year’s award announcement was postponed because of a sexual harassment scandal.

TRT World reached out to the Nobel Foundation for comment, it said:

"The Nobel Foundation never comments upon the Prize awarding institutions’ independent selections of Nobel Prize laureates."

Source: TRT World