Thursday, July 13, 2017


Peter Handke is an acclaimed and prolific author of novels, plays, essays, and poems. A cultural icon of postwar Germany and Austria, he garnered an early reputation as a provocateur with works like Offending the Audience (1966) and Self-Accusation (1966). Handke was internationally acclaimed as a gifted prose stylist, with ruminative, extended sentences that had what John Updike called a “knifelike clarity of evocation.” Later in his career, Handke became embroiled in controversy as he became an outspoken supporter of Serbia during the Yugoslav wars, downplayed the fact that Serbian paramilitaries committed genocide during the conflict, and spoke at the funeral of Slobodan Milošević, the former president of Serbia who had been on trial for war crimes. Handke voiced his support for Serbia as the last bastion of an idealized Yugoslavia in A Journey to the Rivers: Justice for Serbia (1997), a polemical travelogue in which Handke denounced the “evil facts” of Western news media during the Yugoslav wars and presented blinkered and quixotic views of Serbian life. His scant references to high-profile atrocities—particularly the Srebrenica massacre of July 1995—provoked a vehement outcry that continues to this day. He became an outcast in European intellectual circles, depicting bucolic scenes in a country isolated by sanctions.

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