Nobel Defence of Handke Prize Angers Bosnian War Victims

Two Bosnian war victims' groups, the Association of Victims and Witnesses of Genocide and the Mothers of Srebrenica, held a small protest on Tuesday outside the Swedish embassy in Sarajevo to express anger about a letter from the Nobel Committee defending the award of this year's prestigious literature prize to Austrian author Peter Handke.

The award sparked controversy because of Handke's pro-Serb stance during the 1990s wars and his sympathies for Serbian wartime leader Slobodan Milosevic.

"All the mothers who have lost their children came [to protest] and all those still in search of the truth about their loved ones [who were killed]. They are looking for justice," said Munira Subasic, the president of the Mothers of Srebrenica.

Handke wrote what was seen as a pro-Serb book about the Balkan wars entitled 'A Journey to the Rivers: Justice for Serbia', and made a speech at Milosevic's funeral in 2006 after he died during his war crimes trial at the Hague Tribunal.

It also emerged this month that Handke, who is a playwright, film director and screenwriter as well as a renowned novelist, was granted a Yugoslav passport in 1999, when Milosevic was in power.

The letter that angered the Bosnian war victims' representatives was sent by the chairman of the Nobel Committee, Anders Olsson, to the Community of Publishers of Bosnia and Herzegovina.

It said that the prize was intended to "celebrate [Handke's] extraordinary literary work, not the person".

"The Swedish Academy believes that in an open society there must be space for different opinions about authors and that there must be space for different reasonable interpretations of their literary works," the letter explained.

It added it was important to accept "the lawful...

Continue reading on: