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Peter Handke and the power of denial

15 157 0
10.12.2019

I have a brief but intimate experience of Stockholm. While living there in the winter of 2000, I wrote my first book, Postcards from the Grave - a first-hand account of my experience of the genocide in Srebrenica.

I had needed to get out of Bosnia in order to write, so when my Swedish-Bosnian girlfriend at the time offered to share her small university dormitory room with me, I accepted.

That period of my life was characterised by utter poverty. I could only afford a ticket on a shabby bus, which took 72 hours to travel from Sarajevo to Stockholm because its driver was smuggling alcohol across the borders and had to make frequent stops. I had left behind my sister and mother in an abandoned Serb house in a suburb of Sarajevo; my mother especially could not understand what it was I was doing.

I felt guilty for leaving them behind, particularly when strolling along Stockholm's wide avenues, where everything was spacious and shiny. My inner world, even five years after the genocide, was still a very dark place, which felt at odds with the glamour of the Swedish capital.

I left shortly after I completed my first draft and did not go back for 20 years. Today, I have returned to Stockholm again in an attempt to preserve the memory of Srebrenica.

I am here to protest against the decision of the Swedish Royal Academy to award the Nobel Prize for literature to Peter Handke - an Austrian writer who spent a good part of his career belittling and openly denying everything that my family and I, among millions of others, survived in the 1990s.

Denial of crimes is closely linked to power. Individuals, groups, organisations and even entire societies engage in denial for one simple reason: because they can. By doing so, they exclude their victims........

© Al Jazeera