Peter Handke and the Nobel Prize in Literature

Declaration by authors, literary scholars, journalists, translators, and others

Criticism of Peter Handke has long since departed from the realm of acceptable discourse. It now consists almost in its entirety of hate, resentment, insinuation, distortion, and the like. It has degenerated into an anti-Handke propaganda campaign for which, if it can be seen to put Peter Handke in the wrong, any means is right. The clarification issued by Suhrkamp regarding quotations – and more often, misquotations – of statements made by Handke has been met with a collective sneer.

Latterly, representatives of the quality press, of all people, have taken it upon themselves to cast Handke’s right to Austrian citizenship into doubt. An “official report” – on what legal basis, one might ask – on Peter Handke was obtained and the possibility of the revocation of his citizenship put on the table. A Yugoslavian passport issued to him to enable freedom of movement 20 years ago is being used as the justification for this manoeuvre. It has become clear that every effort is to be expended to make Handke a “Serbian citizen” – or stateless.

What is being done here is both pathetic and disgraceful. It is appalling to witness the hatred unleashed against an author and his life’s work, who absent any perceptible benefit to himself, at personal cost in fact, has firmly and uncompromisingly asserted the autonomy of his literary person against the burden of expectations placed on him and on all other writers.

The anti-Handke propaganda is a settling of scores, targeted not just at Handke, but at any disruptive influence by authors on public debate. It is a claim to exercise control over any venturing whatsoever of independent perspectives. We emphatically stand against this media smear campaign that targets Peter Handke and the autonomy of writers.

In the past, we showed solidarity with our colleagues in other countries who had been stripped of their citizenship. Are we now to meekly stand aside when a debate has been incited about the expatriation of Peter Handke? We spoke out against the propagandistic defamation and discrediting of dissident writers in other countries. Will we hold our tongues when the same attacks are launched at an author here?

Instead of using a discussion about Peter Handke as a roundabout way to belatedly come to terms with an episode of recent European history that has been entirely neglected outside the countries involved, we urge everyone participating in the debate to orient themselves towards the facts immediately applicable to Handke himself. The evident will to illiberality demonstrated even by “liberal” media must be considered cause for alarm.

We invite all our colleagues to join us in rejecting this form of debate and in signing the declaration.

Translation: Bryn Roberts

Klaus Kastberger, Werner Michler, Teresa Präauer, Julya Rabinowich, Doron Rabinovici, Gerhard Ruiss, Daniel Wisser ...

To sign the declaration, contact: Gerhard Ruiss,