In his putative review of Peter Handke’s Versuch ueber den Pilznarren (he never gets around to saying much about the book in question), Leland de la Durantaye quotes Jonathan Littell to the effect that if the poet Céline were alive he would try to kill him. Likewise Peter Handke:
“When a family is sitting in its house in Foca and suddenly someone bursts in with a machine gun, chains up the daughter to the radiator and rapes her in front of her family, this is no laughing matter. Okay you might say, the world is like this. But you don’t have to go up to these criminals and start shaking their hands. This is obscene and yet it is precisely what Peter Handke has done … He might be a fantastic artist, but as a human being he is my enemy. . . . Okay, Peter Handke is not killing anyone. But he’s an asshole.”
I went to Foca with Peter Handke. He was looking and listening and trying to figure things out. He wrote carefully about the experience (as did I — see the forthcoming Vampires & A Reasonable Dictionary, punctum books).
de la Durantaye (what a name!) will have none of that:
“Handke has proudly maintained his position on the conflict in the former Yugoslavia. After the facts about the massacres in Srebrenica and elsewhere became clear, he kept calling them the ‘so-called facts’. With a few exceptions (the comparison of the Serbs to the Jews during the Holocaust), he wasn’t inclined to amend his remarks because of new facts; they were made with professional precision, with casuistic distinctions that were essential to him and meant little to his detractors. For many, like Littell, the fundamental distinctions were the only ones that mattered: you either speak at the funeral of a man you know to have ordered the murder of innocents or you don’t.”
Absolutists are violence prone. That’s a fundamental distinction for me.