Austrian author Peter Handke faced protests and boycotts over his backing of late Serbian strongman Slobodan Milosevic, as he received the Nobel prize for Literature at a ceremony in Sweden.
The 77-year-old Handke accepted the 9 million kronor ($948,000) award from King Carl XVI Gustaf at the December 10 ceremony in Stockholm with the winners of other Nobel prizes.
A member of the Swedish Academy and representatives of countries including Albania, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Croatia, Kosovo, North Macedonia, and Turkey boycotted the event over the controversial choice.
As dignitaries arrived for the event, about a dozen protesters held banners with slogans including “No Nobel for Fake News,” while more than 100 demonstrators gathered at a square in the Swedish capital for an anti-Handke protest.
The Swedish Academy awarded Handke the Nobel Prize for Literature on October 10 for what it called “an influential work that with linguistic ingenuity has explored the periphery and the specificity of human experience.”
Handke’s win was immediately met with outrage in many parts of the Balkans and elsewhere because of the eulogy he delivered at Milosevic’s 2006 funeral in honor of the former president.
Milosevic died while being tried by a UN war crimes tribunal in the Netherlands for genocide and other war crimes committed during the conflicts that followed the breakup of Yugoslavia in the 1990s.
Earlier on December 10, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan slammed the choice of Handke, saying “the Nobel has completely lost its prestige.”
One external member of the Nobel literature committee, Gun-Britt Sundstrom, resigned this month over the choice, saying it had been interpreted as if literature stood above politics.
Handke did not answer questions about his support for Milosevic during a December 6 news conference in Stockholm.
“I like literature, not opinions,” he told reporters.