How Peter Handke defeated himself

WEither for the excitement around Peter Handke, nor for those about the Nobel Prize he should get, there is a reason. As far as we know Handke from the translations, he would get every award he would get for his work for good reason. Handke is just a good writer. And he was, long before Yugoslavia collapsed and war broke out over its territory and heritage. In Serbia, especially Žarko Radaković Handke translated, persistent and persistent, for years.

Radaković was also a serious writer in the 1990s. But it is interesting that in the mid-1990s Radaković and Handke were evidently on two different or even harshly opposite political sides. Radaković in opposition to the Milošević regime, including through the decision to write a book about a Croatian artist and then publish in Serbia, and Handke as a passionate supporter of the regime. I believe that Handke not only surprised Radaković at the time.

Culture as a privileged place of unsuspected values

In my universe as a reader, David Albahari, Thomas Bernhard and Peter Handke have formed a special constellation. But in the 1990s and after, Handke excluded himself from the constellation in which I had seen him until then with his political appearances and support for the Serbian regimes on both sides of the Drina. Radaković and Albahari, let us say so rude and simplistic, have not betrayed their poetics through their politics.

Handke already, I believe. Which does not mean that he did not deserve an award under the assumption that awards, including the Nobel Prize, still have any meaning, if they ever had one. Even if he had written nothing but the screenplay for Wim Wenders' film "The Sky over Berlin" from 1987, Handke deserves an award. And if the Nobel Prize committee could lend the award to Bob Dylan, it can also quietly award him Handke for just this one scenario.

It is perfectly clear that this committee has been wrong for years. There are neither criteria nor are those who decide competent to award an award. After a series of failures and excursions into other cultures or into popular culture, the attempt to bring the prize back into the milieu of Central European culture as a harmless and privileged place of unsuspected values ​​is fundamentally poor. Both Handke and Olga Tokarczuk, the winners of the retrospective award for the past year, are the embodiment of writers of the so-called scholarly, high literature. In this sense, Handke was completely wrong in showing respect to the committee for the courage to award him the prize. There can be no question of courage here. In order to bring back the prestige of the prize, the committee has played it safe.


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