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Peter Handke, controversial explorer of language


Peter Handke, controversial explorer of language

Paris (AFP)

A tireless walker in search of language, the Austrian Peter Handke, crowned Thursday Nobel Prize for Literature, is a prolific author in the fight against the conventions, at the price of violent polemics, particularly because of his pro-Serb positions.

The Nobel of literature? "It should finally be deleted, it is a false canonization" that "brings nothing to the reader," says the 76-year-old writer, elegant silhouette, silver hair thrown back and piercing eyes behind thin glasses.

In the world of publishing, there are many who thought that the price would escape forever, despite a world-renowned work, because of its commitment during the war in the former Yugoslavia.

Of Slovenian origin by his mother, the writer born December 6, 1942 in Carinthia (southern Austria), then appears as one of the few Western intellectuals pro-Serb.

In autumn 1995, a few months after the Srebrenica massacre, he left for Serbia and reported his impressions of a controversial book, "Winter Journey to the Danube, Save, Morava and Drina".

In 1999, he made a prestigious German literary prize, the Büchner Prize, and left the Catholic Church to protest the NATO strikes on Belgrade, evoking a "new Auschwitz".

Seven years later, he caused an uproar by attending the funeral of former Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic, accused of crimes against humanity and genocide.

He is forced to give up a prize to be awarded by the city of Düsseldorf and the Comédie-Française deprograms one of his plays.

Intellectuals, including his compatriot Elfriede Jelinek, Nobel of literature in 2004, take his defense. But the controversy hidden for a time media work Peter Handke.

- "The strength to be universal" -

The Austrian author, who has signed more than 80 works, is nonetheless one of the most read and played German-language authors in the world.

His last play, "Les innocents, moi et le inconnue at the edge of the departmental", where a self-criticism arises, is created in February 2016 at the Burgtheater in Vienna, in co-production with the Berliner Ensemble.

"I have the dream and I have the strength to be universal," says Handke at the reception in Germany of a prize for European literature, saying to the jury: "Do not be afraid of me!".

He also had the honors of the Venice Film Festival the same year, where his friend Wim Wenders always presented "The beautiful days of Aranjuez", on one of his scenarios. "Without him, I might have become a painter," says the German filmmaker.

Honored citizen of the city of Belgrade in February 2015, Peter Handke has never denied his pro-Serb commitment.

Crowned with the prestigious Ibsen Theater Prize in 2014, he devotes part of the prize money to building a public swimming pool in a Kosovo Serb enclave.

"Father, do not forgive them especially," he said last year during a visit to Belgrade, paraphrasing the Bible to vilify the Western leaders of the 1990s that he considers responsible for the war.

- The influence of the New Roman -

Deeply marked at 15 by reading Georges Bernanos' "Under the Sun of Satan", he published his first novel, "Les frelons", in 1966.

The former law student is influenced by the French Claude Simon and Alain Robbe-Grillet.

"I was always in danger of falling into self-analysis, the New Roman helped me to exteriorize, to look," he explains.

The same year, he made a sensation with his first play "Outrage to the public" where clash insults to the audience, messages of disarray and radical criticism of committed literature.

The 24-year-old author attacks the aesthetic principles of "Group 47", which dominates the German letters of the post-war period and opposes a radical rejection to the pre-established use of the language. The theme will be at the center of his work.

Master of prose, he develops a sharp and intense style, saying "do not seek the thought but the sensation".

"The Anxiety of the goalkeeper at the time of the penalty", in 1970, then "The indifferent misfortune" (1972), overwhelming requiem dedicated to his mother, bring him notoriety.

Migration, solitude, punctuate an abundant work: forty novels, essays and collections, fifteen plays, but also scenarios, including the famous "wings of desire" for his friend Wim Wenders.

Since 1991, Peter Handke has settled in Chaville, a suburb of Paris, in a house sheltered by cedar trees on the edge of the forest, where this tireless walker gleans inspiration.

"I am a thinker of the snapshot: I am just that, I do not care about narration, my intrigues are masked, buried, I prefer to realize, in the sense that Cézanne understood it".

© 2019 AFP

Source: france24

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