Critics should not be targeting Peter Handke but the Swedish Academy for its decision to award the Nobel Prize to a genocide denier and for its ideological turn to the right, theatre director and prominent Bosnian intellectual, Haris Pasovic, told N1 on Wednesday.
“Handke is a failed writer,” Pasovic declared, adding that the new laureate has not written anything serious in the past 20 years, and is in a crisis for the past 30.
“He can think what he wants and say what he wants. But when a national institution like the Swedish Academy decides to single out a man who is most known for his genocide denial and who held a speech at (Slobodan) Milosevic’s funeral, then that can not be a coincidence. I think the Academy did this on purpose,” Pasovic said.
As the Nobel Prize Committee was handing the award to Handke on Tuesday, hundreds of people, mostly Bosnians, protested in downtown Stockholm.
Handke is known for his controversial stances on the 1992-95 Bosnian war. He was a vocal supporter of the policies of Slobodan Milosevic and even spoke at the 2006 funeral of the Serbian strongman.
Survivors and family members of those who were killed in the massacres in Bosnia between 1992 and 1995 protested in front of the Swedish Embassy in Sarajevo after the news that Handke would receive the Prize came out, calling him a genocide denier and an apologist for Bosnian Serb war crimes and demanding that the Swedish Academy withdraws its decision.
Pasovic explained that the right-wing ideology has been gripping Europe and that the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences is only part of the trend.
"Racism is a serious issue and the return of the European right is a serious issue," he said, reminding that the wars in Yugoslavia were prepared by academics.
“The Academy sent a message to extremists throughout the world that when they say their hate speech is actually literature, that is legitimate,” he said.
He pointed out that it was particularly troubling that King Gustav handed out a humanistic award to a man who denies crimes against humanity.
“For me, Handke himself is not the problem, but the state of Sweden. Now it revealed what it really thinks about refugees who came to Sweden,” he said.
“We have for years been building bridges, for 25 years we are working on bringing divided people back together, to heal the situation in the Balkans. Now they have thrown a bone among us over which we will bicker. Handke is on the front pages in Serbia,” he said.
“I would declare the Swedish Academy persona non grata,” he stressed, referring to a Wednesday decision of the Sarajevo local government to declare Handke persona non grata.
“Handke did not hand that award out to himself, but the Academy did,” he argued, adding that the Academy is not a non-governmental organisation or a private group of people, but a national institution “which, on behalf of Sweden, awards someone else’s money - Alfred Nobel’s - and has among hundreds of thousands of writers decided to award the only one who spoke about the war in Bosnia and Herzegovina in this way.”
The director also argued that Handke can not be good for Serbia either.
“If Handke supported Milosevic, then how can he be seen as a support of Serbs? Milosevic was the worst ruler in Serbia’s history. Nobody has damaged Serbia as much as Milosevic,” he stressed.
Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic sent a congratulatory note to Handke.
“Now, apart from Ivo Andric, we celebrate another of our Nobel recipients,” the note said.
“Handke was granted Yugoslav citizenship and (Vucic’s statement) is propaganda. Vucic never read Handke’s work, it is a propaganda machine, it has nothing to do with literature and that is the damage which Sweden has caused in Europe, especially in the Balkans,” Pasovic commented.