Two Nobel Literature Prize committee members announced their resignations on Monday, with one saying she opposed the view that “literature is above politics,” a reference to the controversy surrounding this year’s laureate, Peter Handke.
The Austrian novelist has been criticized for his vocal support for Serbs in the 1990s wars in the former Yugoslavia.
Kristoffer Leandoer and Gun-Britt Sundstrom announced their decisions to leave the Swedish Academy’s Nobel committee, for which they had been appointed as external members for two years.
Their resignations, confirmed by the academy, came with the Nobel Prize ceremonies on Tuesday next week, the anniversary of the death of the founder of the prize, Swedish industrialist and philanthropist Alfred Nobel.
Leandoer said he did not have “the patience” for the internal reforms the academy undertook after a rape scandal that rocked it in 2017, while Sundstrom listed a series of reasons for her departure, including the awarding of this year’s prize to Handke.
She was “happy” to have participated in the awarding of last year’s prize to Polish poetess Olga Tokarczuk, but was opposed to the selection of Handke, Sundstrom said.
“The choice of 2019 laureate was not just a choice about a body of work, it has also been interpreted, both inside the academy and outside, as a defense of the stance that literature is above politics,” she wrote in a comment to the Dagens Nyheter.
“That is not my ideology,” she told the newspaper.
The Swedish Academy’s pick triggered outrage in the Balkans and beyond because of Handke’s admiration for former Yugoslavian president Slobodan Milosevic.
After postponing last year’s Literature Prize due to a rape scandal that shook the body, the prizewinners for last year and this year were both announced this year.
The 76-year-old Handke, who lives near Paris, has been accused of minimizing Serbian war crimes in his 1997 book A Journey to the Rivers: Justice for Serbia.
He was also widely criticized for speaking at the 2006 funeral of Milosevic, who died while on trial for genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity.
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