A response to Aleksandar Hemon’s opinion piece in yesterday’s New York Times:
Aleksandar Hemon’s explosive denunciation of Peter Handke’s Nobel Prize saddens me. I traveled with Handke in Serbia and Bosnia and witnessed sites of genocide and ethnic cleansing in Srebrenica, Višegrad, and Goražde. I translated Handke’s thoughtful A Journey to the Rivers: Justice for Serbia.
Hemon’s accusations of genocide denial and “unabated” support for “the butcher of the Balkans” and of “immoral delusions” have no basis in Handke’s written work, yet Hemon writes with heated certainty that Handke’s work “should dissolve like a body in acid. . . .”
I prefer Handke’s self-critique in A Journey to the Rivers: “But isn’t it, finally, irresponsible . . . to offer the small sufferings in Serbia . . . while over the border a great suffering prevails, that of Sarajevo, of Tuzla, of Srebrenica, of Bihać. . . . Yes, with each sentence I too have asked myself whether such a writing isn’t obscene, ought even to be tabooed, forbidden. . . .” What kind of writing, Handke asks himself, will “liberate the peoples from their mutual inflexible images?” “[T]hat which binds,” he answers, “that encompasses—the impulse to a common remembering.” And, I answer, the work of Peter Handke.