From the Feuilletons


Heinrich Heine Prize for Peter Handke revoked

After being selected as this year's winner of the coveted Heinrich Heine Prize of the City of Düsseldorf (more here and here), Austrian author Peter Handke has now been told he will not receive the award after all. After heated public criticism, the Düsseldorf City Council has announced it will revoke the prize.

Writing in Die Tageszeitung, Gerrit Bartels roundly criticises the decision to revoke the prize, saying that the "eternal Peter Handke reflex" had led to things being handled in a slipshod way. "Certainly, Handke's stubbornness and his statements on Milosevic's behalf are amply disconcerting. But one should also try to understand why Handke has consistently got so carried away and stuck in his ideas. Maybe then you can at least see what he's trying to get at. In the best democratic tradition people have to be able to accept that someone like Peter Handke should win the Heinrich Heine Prize."

Also in Die Tageszeitung, Wiglaf Droste writes: "Of course it's possible that Peter Handke has got a screw loose. If you go on a search for the truth, you can also get lost along the way. But anyone that believes they automatically have truth on their side just because they belong to the overwhelming majority should not be listened to in the first place. A writer has every right to his own view of the world. Telling him to be more media-friendly is tantamount to seeking to abolish the writing profession."

Thomas Steinfeld, head of the literary desk at the Süddeutsche Zeitung (where Peter Handke's call for "Justice for Serbia" launched the heated debate around Handke's support for Serbia and Milosovic), reacts angrily to the decision by the Düsseldorf City Council: "That's not how things are done. The mayor of Düsseldorf can't ring up Peter Handke and say he'll get the Heinrich Heine Prize this year, if just a few days later the City Council says no, on second thoughts he won't win it after all. That's not how things are done. The former historian, museum director and now politician Christoph Stölzl can't be member of a literary jury and then – as soon as a democratic decision meets with public criticism – go around saying the person who won wasn't his man. That's not how things are done. And now all manner of politicians are piping up and calling the decision 'a poor choice', 'unthinkable' and 'insensitive', while leaving no one in any doubt that they've never read anything Peter Handke has written on the subject. That's not how things are done."

Tilman Krause of Die Welt however applauds the intervention of the Dusseldorf city council: "What luck that at least the policitians in this country have some sense!"

Die Welt, 31.05.2006

Soon over half of the population of Los Angeles will be Hispanic. Uwe Scmitt casts an eye at the booming immigration laboratory of the USA. "'The century of the Anglos is over', writer Richard Rodriguez prophesied in San Francisco, and the black and white, often tragic dialectics with it. Anyone who looks at Los Angeles, looks into the brown countenance and the slightly slitted eyes of America in 20 years' time. Rodriguez, who gave president Richard Nixon the dubious title of 'the dark father of Hispanicity' after he introduced this category into the ten-yearly census, celebrates multi-ethnicity as the destiny and self-cleaning process of the nation. Everything mixes together, whites with Indians, blacks with whites, Mexican mestizos with mulattoes from Puerto Rico. America was never pure. 'The Ku Klux Klan was incensed by this idea of brownness. Brown, the colour of family secrets, forbidden passion ... my whole life I listened to the black-white discussion, like listening to a couple arguing through the wall in a motel room.' Gone are the days when those two warring factions were alone in the room." (Here an extensive interview with Rodriguez on this issue, and here Rodriguez' contribution to a discussion on multiculturalism.)

Neue Zürcher Zeitung, 31.05.2006

The poet Charles Simic describes his worst trauma: Yugoslavia's defeat against Brazil in the football World Cup in 1950. It was utterly inconceivable for him at the age of twelve. After all, the Yugoslavian players were supernatural beings. "For lessons in the higher art of football, I would go and sit in a barber's salon, where old men would exchange memories about the glory days. It was there that I heard about a Serbian player in the 1920s who shot goals with such force that several goal keepers had been killed while trying to stop the ball. Every time he had to take a free kick, they would hastily send for a coffin. Eventually the football association presented him with a choice: either the doctors would remove a few of his leg muscles or he would have to give up football. I've forgotten how the story ended."

Frankfurter Rundschau, 31.05.2006

A rumour is circulating" about Feridun Zaimoglu's highly acclaimed novel "Leyla", reports Christoph Schröder. The rumour was started by an "unpublished and incomplete study from some university whose authors do not wish to be named." This study claims that there are a "surprisingly high instance of correlating motifs and topoi" in "Leyla" and a novel which appeared in 1992 under the title "Life is a caravansarai with two doors: I came in one and left by the other" by the Turkish-born writer Emine Sevgi Özdamar. Both books were published by Kiepenheuer & Witsch and were both edited by the head of the publishing house, Helge Malchow, who describes the similarities as "circulating cultural capital" based on a "shared history and shared experience." - let's talk european