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Nobel Committee member defends decision to pick Peter Handke for Literature

Henrik Petersen said that in the future, Handke would be considered just as worthy

AFP|
Updated: Oct 18, 2019, 06.50 PM IST
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AFP
Peter Hanke's Nobel Prize came under fire because of his admiration for late Serbian strongman Slobodan Milosevic.​
Peter Hanke's Nobel Prize came under fire because of his admiration for late Serbian strongman Slobodan Milosevic.
STOCKHOLM: A member of the committee which selects the winner of the Nobel Prize in Literature defended Friday the controversial decision to give the award to Austrian author Peter Handke.

Henrik Petersen said that in the future, Handke would be considered just as worthy as someone like acclaimed Irish novelist Samuel Beckett, who won in 1969.

"In 50 years... Peter Handke, just like Beckett, will be among the most obvious choices the Swedish Academy ever made, of that I am certain," Petersen wrote in an op-ed in the newspaper Svenska Dagbladet.

The awarding of the Nobel to Handke came under fire in the Balkans and beyond because of his admiration for late Serbian strongman Slobodan Milosevic.

In the 1990s, Handke emerged as a vocal defender of the Serbs during the bloody collapse of the former Yugoslavia, even comparing them to Jews under the Nazis, a remark he later retracted.

Tagore, Satyarthi And 8 Other Nobel Winners Who Have Made India Proud

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The Indian Connection

18 Oct, 2019
India's association with the Nobel Prize goes back, across centuries and latitudes. Poet, writer and thinker Rabindranth Tagore brought glory to the country when he became the first Indian to win the Nobel Prize for the country. The 52-year-old Tagore was accorded the honour in 1913, 12 years after it made its debut. Ever since, nine other laureates with an India connection have been conferred the prestigious award in various categories, Abhijit Banerjee being the latest. There were a few famous names who were nominated several times, but failed to bag the award. While Indian poet Sri Aurobindo was nominated for the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1943 and 1950, the committee had considered Mahatma Gandhi for the Peace Prize five times in 1937, 1938, 1939, 1947 & 1948 (days before his assassination). Swedish chemist Alfred Nobel had drafted a will in 1895 where he reserved a large part of his estate to establish Nobel Prizes after concerns of how the world would remember him. He wanted the awards to be given to individuals (based on their achievements), annually, despite their nationality. He died in 1896. It took nearly five years for the committee to set up, and the first set of awards for Physiology or Medicine, Chemistry, Literature, Physics and Peace were awarded in 1901. After 67 years, Sweden's central bank with donation from donation from the Nobel Foundation, established the Sveriges Riksbank Prize in Economic Sciences in Memory of Alfred Nobel in 1968. Here's a look at all the Indians who brought honour to the nation.
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Handke also attended the 2006 funeral of Milosevic - who died while on trial for crimes against humanity, and who wanted Handke to testify in his defence.

Petersen - a member of the Nobel Committee which proposes a candidate for the prize who is then approved by the Swedish Academy - described Handke as an advocate for peace and that he was "anti-nationalistic".

He also said the 76-year-old was "radically unpolitical" in his writing and that his support for the Serbs had been misunderstood, saying Handke's main argument was that the Serbian point of view was missing in German and Austrian media.

The decision to award an author that even had the potential to offend came as a surprise, as the Academy was widely seen as choosing someone who would avoid ruffling any feathers.
In 2006, ​​Peter Handke attended funeral of Milosevic - who died while on trial for crimes against humanity, and who wanted the author to testify in his defence.​
In 2006, Peter Handke (in pic) attended funeral of Milosevic - who died while on trial for crimes against humanity, and who wanted the author to testify in his defence.

The body was shaken by a scandal in 2017 that saw Frenchman Jean-Claude Arnault, who has close ties to the institution, jailed for rape in 2018.

The Academy, which dates back to 1786, was torn apart as its 18 members vehemently disagreed on how to manage their ties to him.

Ultimately, seven members quit the Academy. In tatters, it postponed the 2018 prize until this year -- the first delay in 70 years.

Handke was honoured with the 2019 award, with the Academy saying he had established himself as one of the "most influential" post-World War II writers in Europe.

The 2018 prize was given to Polish writer Olga Tokarczuk.

Academy members rarely make comments on winners, other than the official award statements, but Petersen was one of five external members of the Nobel Committee this year, who were added after demands for outside oversight from the Nobel Foundation which manages the prize money.

Nobel Prize In Literature Cancelled After Sexual Assault Scandal, Other Times It Was Rocked...

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A Not-So-Nobel Prize

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This year’s Nobel in Literature was cancelled after Jean-Claude Arnault, a French photographer and the husband of a member of the Swedish Academy, was convicted of rape. A look at other times a scandal rocked the coveted award.(In Pic: Jean-Claude Arnault on the left, and the seal of the Nobel Prize on the right.)
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