Swedish Academy defends awarding Handke Nobel Prize

The Swedish Academy has defended its decision to award Austrian author Peter Handke the Nobel Prize for Literature in a letter to Mehmet Kraja, the Head of Kosovo’s Academy of Sciences and Arts.

Kraja wrote to the Nobel Committee in October, expressing discontent concerning the decision and demanding that the award be annulled due to Handke’s sympathies towards former Serbian leader Slobodan Milosevic, who was indicted by the former Yugoslav Tribunal in the Hague for committing crimes against humanity in Kosovo and genocide in Bosnia and Herzegovina.

“Deeply disappointed with this year’s award of the Nobel Prize,” Kraja’s letter stated. “The Academy of Science and Arts of Kosovo demands that the decision of the Swedish Academy be annulled, as an act of understanding and solidarity with the people of the world who fight for freedom and democracy.”

Kosovo’s ambassador to the United States, Vlora Citaku, previously described the decision to award Handke as “preposterous and shameful,” while Kraja also wrote an editorial for the Washington Post condemning the award “to a man who celebrated a war criminal.”

In their response to Kraja, the Swedish Academy wrote: “When Handke was awarded the prize, the ambition is to celebrate his extraordinary literary work, not the person,” adding that they believe there must be “room for different opinions” about authors in an open society.

“There must be room for different reasonable interpretations of their literary work. We should strive to respect each other notwithstanding sharply diverging views on important matters,” the Academy concluded in their response.