PEN America issued the following statement today, from author and PEN America President Jennifer Egan, in response to the Swedish Academy’s choice of Peter Handke for the 2019 Nobel Prize in Literature (along with Olga Tokarczuk):
PEN America does not generally comment on other institutions’ literary awards. We recognize that these decisions are subjective and that the criteria are not uniform. However, today’s announcement of the 2019 Nobel Prize in Literature to Peter Handke must be an exception. We are dumbfounded by the selection of a writer who has used his public voice to undercut historical truth and offer public succor to perpetrators of genocide, like former Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic and Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic. PEN America has been committed since the passage our 1948 PEN Charter to fighting against mendacious publication, deliberate falsehood, and distortion of facts. Our Charter further commits us to work to “dispel all hatreds and to champion the ideal of one humanity living in peace and equality.” We reject the decision that a writer who has persistently called into question thoroughly documented war crimes deserves to be celebrated for his “linguistic ingenuity.” At a moment of rising nationalism, autocratic leadership, and widespread disinformation around the world, the literary community deserves better than this. We deeply regret the Nobel Committee on Literature’s choice.
They’re not the only ones—Salman Rushdie, Hari Kunzru, Slavoj Žižek, and other literary figures have also expressed their dismay.