On 7 December 2019, at the Swedish Academy in Stockholm, Peter Handke delivered his Nobel Lecture and later received the Nobel Prize in Literature on 10 December 2019. What a proud moment it would have been for him. Never would he have thought that his writings would make such an impact on society. But not everyone was happy about this!

Peter Handke was born in Griffen in 1942 to Maria Handke and Bruno Handke. Bruno Handke was not the biological father of the young boy. On top of that, Bruno was also an alcoholic which frequently made Peter come face to face with a violent step father.

He was sent away from home for his studies and started his writing journey in his early days while he was at school. In 1971, while he was still young, his mother took her own life which he later recorded in his book ‘A Sorrow Beyond Dreams’.

In 1996, Handke published an essay in which he stated that Serbia was also one of the victims of the Yogoslav wars and also slammed the western media for not representing the facts correctly. This fuelled the controversy surrounding the writer, when he was called up as one of the Nobel Laureates. He was awarded the nobel prize “for an influential work that with linguistic ingenuity has explored the periphery and the specificity of human experience.” Though the ambassadors of the countries including Kosovo, Bosnia, Albania and Turkey boycotted the ceremony, for Handke took his stand for the Serbian side in the Yogoslav wars.

Now, the question arises, as to was it right to criticize the awarding of Peter Handke with such severity?

Let’s first address his essay. Whatever, he wrote in the essay, ‘Journey To The Rivers: Justice For Serbia’, is just his own opinion that he formed by looking at the events from his own point of view. We also can’t deny that his upbringing and past experiences would have definitely played a role in forming his perspective. This is not to say that he wrote something unethical and we are here to justify it. It’s just that a person is free to state his own mind without having to be attacked like this.

Handke’s brilliant works include ‘Offending The Audience’, ‘The Goalie’s Anxiety At The Penalty Kick’, ‘A Sorrow Beyond Dreams’ and ‘Wings of Desire’. Apart from these, he has also written screenplays for movies and playscripts for theatres. These works of his have been widely appreciated among the audience and it’s for these masterpieces that he was deemed worthy of being a Nobel Laureate.

What is literature? We should ask ourselves. All of us might have different meanings for this word and I would like to share mine. For me, literature is a piece of written work that can motivate me to become a better person for the world that has accepted me as one of its. It is something that has the power to bring about a revolution in society to abandon our old selves and aim for a higher status in the moral space. We can all have our own opinions and that is the beauty of it. We can try to become more like the character we admire or have a character that we disapprove of and take a resolution to never become a person like that in our life. Isn’t it beautiful to have a choice of our own!

Author: MEhul Singh

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