Controversial Nobel laureate avoids questions about his support for Serbs

Dec. 7 (UPI) — Austrian author Peter Handke, whose selection for the Nobel prize has led to two resignations and boycotts of the award ceremony, waved away questions about his support for the Serbian regime at his inaugural lecture to the Swedish Academy Saturday.

No journalists were permitted to attend the event, but the speech was broadcast live by the Nobel committee.

Earlier Saturday, Kosovo’s Foreign Minister Beghet Pacolli said his country’s envoy to Sweden would not attend the Nobel awards ceremony Tuesday. The government of Turkey has also condemned Handke’s award.

In the1990s, Handke was one of few European intellectuals who publicly supported the genocidal Serbian regime in the former Yugoslavia in the 1990s, which claimed more than 130,000 lives. Handke has been accused of denying the extent of the atrocity and of saying specific massacres never occurred.

Handke spoke at the 2006 funeral of Slobodan Milošević, who died at The Hague while on trial for genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity. Before his death, Milošević had asked Handke testify on his behalf.

On Friday, Handke dismissed what he called “ignorant” questions about his support for the Serbian regime.

“I like literature, not opinions. I hate opinions,” Handke said.

In October the Swedish Academy announced Handke was one of two winners of the Nobel prize in literature. Awards were not given in 2018, in extremely rare move was prompted by a sex assault scandal that led to mass resignations and questions about the Academy when Academy-funded photographer Jean-Claude Arnault was accused of sexual assault by 18 women.

The 2018 literature prize was awarded Thursday to Polish author Olga Tokarczuk, who also spoke at Saturday’s lecture.

The first Nobel prize was awarded in 1901 with money from the estate of Alfred Nobel, who amassed a large fortune for his numerous inventions, of which dynamite is the most famous. He stipulated in his will that a foundation be established to reward those who serve humanity.

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