Thursday, June 01, 2006

"For the fair readers": Handke again

Sign & Sight has been indispensable lately in following the Handke affair. Today it links to the man's latest response in the Süddeutsche Zeitung to the "reproaches" he's received recently. "I must do it for the readers" he says, "for the fair readers - a tautology, by the way, because a dishonest or partial reader is never a reader."

It's not easy to be a fair reader however, particularly if the writer is dishonest. I can't remember where I read it, but I read that Handke had said "the Serbs were greater victims than the Jews". He confirms it in this article: "die Serben sind noch größere Opfer als die Juden". How can anyone agree with such gross statements?!

Well indeed, he admits it himself. He admits it was wrong. "Ich konnte nicht glauben, eine derartige Dummheit tatsächlich ausgesprochen zu haben", which is pretty clear even through web translation. He explains it was an off-the-cuff, emotional response following the failure of peace talks to prevent NATO bombing of Serbia (something sensitive literary types over here don't even seem to be aware of). He immediately corrected it in print but it seems the unfair writers preferred to present it as his solemn, enduring belief, thus presenting those of us without German with half-truths.

Finally, once all the lies have been washed away, we are left with the truth of his attendence of Milosevic's funeral. From what I can work out, Handke says that he wished to resist the language of the west that had been imposed on the subject of Serbia, here represented by its thrice-elected president. "Such language compelled ... my mini-speech in Pozarevac .. not a loyalty to Slobodan Milosevic, but loyalty to that different language, the not-journalistic, the not-dominant language." Anyone who knows his novels will be aware of this loyalty. It might be a rather Romantic tendency, even naive, something which makes him open to the insipid critiques of drab, snooty moralists (see Theatre Notes' link - i.e. I don't mean the blogger), but also why he's a unique writer. There really is nobody else like him.

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