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Disputed Author Handke Awarded German Literary Prize

DW staff (jen)May 25, 2006

Controversial Austrian playwright and novelist Peter Handke was awarded the city of Düsseldorf's Heine Prize for literature.

Austrian writer Peter Handke is controversial because of his stance on SerbiaImage: dpa

The Heine Prize, endowed for 50,000 euros ($64,000), is one of the three highest-paying literature prizes in Germany. The jury said Handke -- like Heinrich Heine, the German poet after whom the prize is named -- obstinately follows the way to an "open truth." He puts forth his own poetic world view, in contrast to broader public opinion, they said. The prize will be awared on Dec. 13.

Handke wrote the groundbreaking experimental play "Offending the Audience" and the novel "The Goalie's Anxiety at the Penalty Kick", but may be best know for writing the novel "Wings of Desire", which was turned into a film by Wim Wenders.

Pro-Serbian stance

He is controversial because of his pro-Serbian stance during the Balkan wars, and his support for the Serbian regime.

Recently, French national theatre Comédie-Française removed the play "Voyage to the Sonorous Land or the Art of Asking" from its 2007 season lineup, after Handke spoke at the burial of former Serbian dictator Slobodan Milosevic in March.

Handke, who lives in France, said in an essay in the French newspaper Libération: "Let's stop laying the massacre … on the backs of the Serbian military and paramilitary. And listen -- at last -- to the survivors of the Muslim massacres in numerous Serbian villages around Srebrenica."

'Glad' acceptance

Last year, Handke's publisher, Suhrkamp Verlag, said the author would categorically refuse any more literature prizes; in Paris, however, Handke said he would "gladly" accept the Heine Prize.

Up to now, winners of the Heine Prize have included Walter Jens, Günter Kunert, Max Frisch, Wolf Biermann, Hans Magnus Enzensberger, Elfriede Jelinek und Robert Gernhardt.