WHO IS PETER HANDKE? He is the strongest, most inventive writer to have emerged in German literature since, well, Günter Grass. Handke, like Grass, is a great prose stylist. But unlike Grass, or any other novelist of note for that matter, Handke is also one of the most prominent defenders of the late Serbian dictator Slobodan Milosevic, a fact that made Handke the most controversial writer in Europe throughout the spring and early summer of 2006. The most controversial, that is, until the media eruption unleashed by Grass’s confession buried Handke’s actions and statements under a deep wash of newspaper ink.
What exactly had Handke done? Milosevic was on trial for war crimes, including genocide in Bosnia for overseeing the 1995 massacre of 8,000 Muslims at Srebrenica, when he died in his prison cell in The Hague on March 11, 2006. Handke spoke at his funeral in Belgrade one week later, when Milosevic’s coffin was displayed in the Museum of the Revolution before an overflow crowd of some 20,000 radical Serb nationalists.
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