The howls of protest emitted by the high priests of political correctness (here and here) still have not abated since the Nobel Literature Prize committee announced the 2019 winner, Austrian writer Peter Handke. The ongoing sordid affair lays bare at least two things. First, the arrogance and primitivism of the reality-challenged totalitarian commissars who have serious problems grasping the sea change in the global relationship of forces. They are autistic and think that their threadbare narratives can still be sustained by simple repetition. Their off-subject rants demonstrate also that in regard to Handle and his opus they have no coherent aesthetic argument whatsoever to dispute the recognition he has received. Paradoxically, the exclusively political, and even ideological tenor of these “arguments” serves only to enhance the strong impression that this time around the Nobel Literature Prize Committee has finally managed to do a credible job, after giving out many dubious awards over the years, whatever the deeper motives for handing the prize to the Austrian writer now.
The latter observation is, unfortunately, appropriate, particularly in light of recent history in awarding the once undoubtedly prestigious prize. Over the last several decades, for reasons that can only be conjectured, the Nobel literature committee did not impress anyone with the wisdom of its choices. The international intellectual community was bewildered by the awkwardness of many of the Committee’s decisions, which greatly devalued the literature prize. It suffices to mention a few of the more recent obviously politically dictated literature prize winners, such as Svetlana Aleksievich, Herta Miller, and Bob Dylan to make the point. (Bob Dylan should be given credit for saying a few kind things about the Serbs when that was most unpopular, but that hardly qualifies him for what is considered the world’s most prestigious literature prize, never mind the fact that Dylan is a pop artist, not a writer.) Handke’s future behavior will be a clue to solving the interesting puzzle of how and why malgré tout the Committee settled upon him as this year’s winner, but the proposition that after numerous failures of judgment it was motivated this time by purely aesthetic considerations must at first glimpse appear rather dubious. Looking at it in the most favorable light, however, we may have a situation analogous to 1958, when Pasternak won the Literature Prize. In contrast to the series of politically suitable but utterly forgettable literary non-entities over the last several decades who were adorned with the prize, the winner Handke – just as Pasternak in his day – has undoubtedly earned the honor, but prudence requires that we also keep an eye on the political context. Of course, in Handke’s case we still lack sufficient facts to make sober judgments on this subject.
Anyway, the gist of the enraged high priests’ objection is that Handle simply is not a ball player. They denounce him for crossing important red lines while obstinately ignoring some of the obligatory propaganda axioms of their public ideology. Chief among these is his headstrong refusal to express solidarity with the moral lynching of the Serbian nation (which has today been assigned the World War II role of the Jews, a fact that the heretic Handke has publicly pointed out). Further, Handke is excoriated for disbelieving that genocide was committed in Srebrenica, although it is not at all clear why a writer, whether good or bad at his craft, should be required to assent to that discredited propaganda claim in order to prove his literary worth. (Handke’s eulogy at the funeral of Slobodan Milosevic has also been included in the charge sheet, but it is an item simply too preposterous for serious comment.) Finally, they are infinitely enraged by a man who declined their ticket to the celebrity pantheon of the New World Order and insists on identifying with its victims, instead of opting for the glory, tributes, and benefits that accrue from opportunistically identifying with the oppressors.
All men of good will and sound moral character who care about world class literature and intellectual honesty welcome the honor that was bestowed on Peter Handke, not because of “pro-Serbian” views maliciously and irrelevantly attributed to the author but because of the genuine positions he takes vis-à-vis the key issues of our time. Handke is a personification of unshakable commitment to justice and truth, and if such a stance has on occasion resulted in expressions of support for one of the most maligned nations of our time, so much the worse for the slanderers. The excerpt from Albert Camus’ Nobel acceptance speech in 1957, seized upon and twisted in a furious comment by the journalistic hack Ed Vulliamy (of indecent memory from the 1990s) is in fact entirely applicable to this year’s laureate Peter Handke and encapsulates his admirable human profile: “The duty of the writer,” Vulliamy misquotes Camus in his hit piece, “is to do more than write, but also testify to truth.” (What Camus actually said on that occasion was “It obliges the artist not to keep himself apart; it subjects him to the most humble and the most universal truth,” but never mind, that still makes the same essential point even if the fraudster Vulliamy altered the remark to give it his personal imprint.)
Exactly right. Except that the sold out scoundrel and false reporter from the Bosnian war theater, undeserving Pulitzer Prize winner Vulliamy does not know the first thing about truth. That is precisely why he made this ridiculous slip, falsely invoking Camus in a servile attempt to smear Handke. Just another brilliant example, isn’t it, of the generous tribute that, without intending it, vice regularly pays to virtue?