Austrian author Peter Handke has been declared unwelcome in Kosovo and in the capital of neighboring Bosnia-Herzegovina in the latest protest against his induction as a Nobel literature laureate.
Many in the Balkans see the 77-year-old Handke as an apologist for Serb war crimes and a staunch supporter of late Serbian strongman Slobodan Milosevic during the conflicts that followed the breakup of Yugoslavia in the 1990s.
Sarajevo’s regional parliament on December 11 adopted a declaration proclaiming Handke “persona non grata,” saying his possible visit to Bosnia and Sarajevo would “prompt additional rage and humiliation of all victims of the Serbian aggression.”
Lawmakers also denounced the Swedish Academy for awarding this year’s Nobel Literature Prize to a person they described as a “genocide denier.”
However, Igor Radojicic, the mayor of Banja Luka — the administrative center of the country’s predominantly Serbian entity, Republika Srpska — congratulated Handke and invited him to visit.
In Kosovo, acting Foreign Minister Behgjet Pacolli tweeted that he had decided to declare Handke a “persona non grata” in the country because of “the support he gave to Milosevic and his genocidal policies” in Kosovo and Bosnia, as well as his “denial of the genocide committed by Serbia.”
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.
The Nobel Prize was handed to him at a ceremony in Stockholm on December 10 that was boycotted by representatives of a number of countries, including Bosnia and Kosovo.
One external member of the Nobel literature committee, Gun-Britt Sundstrom, resigned this month over the choice Handke, saying it had been interpreted as if literature stood above politics.