For Press Release 18 October 2019
Statement: Bosnian-Herzegovinian American Academy of Arts and Sciences (BHAAAS) condemns the choice of Peter Handke for the 2019 Nobel Prize in Literature
The Bosnian-Herzegovinian American Academy of Arts and Sciences (BHAAAS) is deeply disappointed by the choice of The Swedish Academy to award the Nobel Prize in Literature for 2019 to Peter Handke, a writer who is a Srebrenica genocide denier and a prominent supporter of the former Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic. The harm done to the Bosnian and Herzegovinian people with the politics promoted by persons such as Peter Handke far outweighs any literary merit worthy of recognition by the Nobel Committee.
Founding BHAAAS member and past President Aleksandar Hemon, the Bosnian-American novelist and essayist who now teaches at Princeton University, recently wrote in a New York Times op-ed, “The choice of Mr. Handke implies a concept of literature safe from the infelicities of history and actualities of human life and death. War and genocide, Milosevic and Srebrenica, the value of the writer’s words and actions at this moment in history, might be of interest to the unsophisticated plebs once subjected to murder and displacement, but not to those who can appreciate “linguistic ingenuity [that] has explored the periphery and the specificity of human experience. For them, genocide comes and goes, but literature is forever.”
Hemon continued: “Mr. Handke’s immoral delusions could perhaps be related to his literary aesthetics, to his suspicion of language and its ability to represent truth, which ultimately leads to a position that everything is equally true, or untrue. His moral collapse could also be seen in the context of everlasting European Islamophobia, or its cocktail whataboutism which found all parts of former Yugoslavia equally responsible for its demise, all of which went very nicely with knee-jerk dislike of Western imperialism that in the bloody 1990s befogged the lofty minds of many a European salon.”
In line with its mission, the BHAAAS promotes the spirit of intellectual diversity and free exchange of ideas among the Bosnian and Hercegovinian diaspora in the belief that knowledge is sharable wealth.
While the Academy is also an apolitical organization and refrains from issuing political statements, it is making an exception in the light of the announcement of the 2019 Nobel Prize in Literature to Peter Handke.
With many BHAAAS members being war survivors this unfathomable and shameless decision by the Swedish Academy to award the Nobel Prize for Literature for Literature in 2019 to Peter Handke is deeply disturbing and tragic.