Austrian author Peter Handke received his Nobel Prize for Literature at a ceremony in Sweden, amidst protests on Tuesday.
The 76-year-old writer was pronounced the 2019 winner alongside 57-year-old Polish writer, Olga Tokarczuk, who won the 2018 edition a month ago in Stockholm, Sweden.
The 2018 Nobel Prize was delayed by a year after a crisis in the academy sparked by sexual allegations against Jean-Claude, the husband of an Academy member, Katarina Frostenson.
According to the Swedish Academy, Mr Handke was recognised for “an influential work that with linguistic ingenuity has explored the periphery and the specificity of human experience.”
Also, MsTokarczukc collected her belated 2018 literature prize and was awarded for her “narrative imagination that with encyclopedia passion represents the crossing of boundaries as a form of life.”
The Nobel Literature Prize winners received a medal, a diploma and £740,000 in prize money each.
While Mr Handke had expressed happiness over the award, many had condemned the Swedish Academy’s choice of him and had called for a withdrawal of the award.
A 58,000-strong petition was reportedly called for the award to be revoked.
The choice of Mr Handke was controversial because of his support for the Serbian side in the 1990s Yugoslav war.
The ambassadors of countries including Bosnia, Albania, Kosovo and Turkey boycotted the ceremony in protest.
As dignitaries arrived in limousines for the awards ceremony, about a dozen protesters waved placards with slogans such as “No Nobel for Fake News,” Reuters also reported.
“The problem with Handke is his refusal to admit genocide on the Bosnian population in the 1990s.
“As a serious, established writer who has a lot of clout in European literature, Handke has been used in the narrative of genocide denial in the Balkans,” Adnan Mahmutović, one of the organisers of Tuesday’s demonstration in Stockholm, told Reuters.
One external member of the Nobel literature committee, Gun-Britt Sundstrom, was reported to have resigned earlier this month over the choice of Mr Handke.
Ms Sundstrom said she did not agree that the choice of Mr Handke had been interpreted as if literature stood above politics.
Another external committee member, Kristoffer Leandoer, said he had left because Academy reforms following the sexual assault scandal were taking too long, according to BBC.
“In a 1996 book, Handke cast doubt on the Bosnia Serb massacre of men and boys at Srebrenica and accused Bosnian Muslims of staging attacks.
“In a TV interview in 1999, he compared Serbia’s fate to that of Jews during the Holocaust – although he later apologised for that “slip of the tongue”. In 2006, he spoke at the funeral of Serb leader Slobodan Milosevic, who was accused of genocide and other war crimes.
“However, the Academy quoted a 2006 article in which Handke said the Srebrenica massacre was the worst crime against humanity in Europe since Word War Two,” BBC reporter said.
During a recent press conference in Stockholm, Local press reported how the Austrian author avoided questions on the Balkan wars.
“I like literature, not opinions,” he said.
However, in an interview with German weekly Die Zeit in late November, as reported by BBC, Mr Handke defended his writings.
“Not one word I have written about Yugoslavia can be denounced, not a single one. It’s literature,” he said.
He said that at the time “reporting about Serbia was monotone and one-sided.”
One Nobel Prize Committee for Literature member, Henrik Peterson, told BBC that Mr Handke is “radically unpolitical” in his writing, and his support for the Serbs has been misunderstood.
Mr Petersen is not the only committee member to defend Handke.
Rebecka Kärde said she did not want to “apologise for the hair-raising things that Handke has undoubtedly said and done”.
But she continued: “The Nobel committee must read the texts on Yugoslavia among another 70 works written over a period of 50 years. Which we did.”
They concluded that the author of books including Repetition, My Year in the No-Man’s-Bay and Die, deserved the award.