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Tuesday, December 10, 2019

Nobel dinner today ~ protests against Peter Handke's literature Nobel 2019

Guests are required to come in a dark suit for gentlemen and short or long dresses for ladies. This is a strictly formal affair and gentlemen are required to wear white tie and tails, while ladies should be clad in an evening gown  !  In a bustling kitchen in Stockholm’s city hall, a team of 47 chefs from around Sweden work for four days to prepare an elaborate meal for 1,350 guests at a banquet taking place today !

The nos. are not too important but the guests are ! ~ they are no ordinary people – they are the Nobel laureates in Physics, Economics, Chemistry, Medicine and literature.  The team is working under the direction of Sebastian Gibrand for the main and starter courses, a 31-year-old chef who is directing the banquet for the first time in his career. The elaborate three-course meal is a closely guarded secret until it is served to guests at the banquet.   The distinguished guests will be seated in the Blue Hall of the City Hall of Stockholm where the banquet has been held since 1934. During the first decades, ‘consommés’ or clear soups like ‘Tortue Claire’ were common starters. Today, the guiding principle is that the menus should have a touch of Scandinavia.

In early December, the Nobel Laureates and the Laureates in Economic Sciences arrive in Stockholm, Sweden, to present their Nobel Lectures and to prepare for the Nobel Prize Award Ceremony, traditionally held on 10 December, the anniversary of Alfred Nobel's death.  The Nobel Foundation is a private institution established in 1900 based on the will of Alfred Nobel. The main task is to manage the assets made available through the will, and the intellectual property related to the Nobel Prize that has developed over the years.  Alfred Nobel had broad cultural interests. During his early youth, he developed his literary interests which lasted throughout his life. His library consisted of a rich and broad selection of literature in different languages. During the last years of his life, he tried his hand as an author and began writing fiction too. Literature was the fourth prize area Nobel mentioned in his will.  The Nobel Prize in Literature is awarded by The Swedish Academy, Stockholm, Sweden ~ and this year’s Literature award is being talked about wildly.

A year after a sex abuse scandal forced the Nobel Committee of the Swedish Academy to postpone awarding its prestigious literature prize, members were hoping to avoid controversy when awarding this year's honor.  But it proved that, there's always next year. The 18-member academy announced on Oct 10 that the prize for 2019 had been awarded to Austrian author Peter Handke.  Many know the 76-year-old's works such as The Goalie's Anxiety At The Penalty Kick and the screenplay Wings Of Desire, both of which ended up as films directed by longtime friend Wim Wenders.

But judging by the reaction to his victory, many more know him for his relationship with unsavory former Yugoslav leader Slobodan Milosevic.  The citation reads: the Nobel Prize in Literature for 2019 is awarded to the Austrian author Peter Handke "for an influential work that with linguistic ingenuity has explored the periphery and the specificity of human experience."  Peter Handke is a  novelist, playwright, translator, poet, film director and screenwriter.  In the late 1960s, he was recognized for works such as the play Publikumsbeschimpfung (Offending the Audience) and the novel Die Angst des Tormanns beim Elfmeter (The Goalie's Anxiety at the Penalty Kick). Prompted by his mother's suicide in 1971, he reflected her life in the novel Wunschloses Unglück (A Sorrow Beyond Dreams).

But the decision to confer Nobel Literature award raised voices.  Vlora Citaku, Kosovo's ambassador to Washington, called the decision to award Handke the prize "preposterous and shameful," questioning how the academy could choose "a man who glorified Milosevic, aka the 'Butcher of the Balkans.'  Albania said on Monday its ambassador to Sweden would boycott the Nobel prize awards ceremony in protest.  The Swedish Academy's choice of Austrian Handke has been widely criticized because he has expressed support for and attended the funeral of Milosevic, who died in detention at the U.N. war crimes tribunal in The Hague in 2006.

A Turkey government official on Saturday called on the Swedish Academy to change the decision to award Handke the prize and Kosovo said its ambassador would not attend the awards ceremony on Tuesday. "Consistent with our initial reaction, we have also instructed the Ambassador of Albania to Sweden to boycott the Nobel Prize ceremony for (Peter) Handke," Acting Albanian Foreign Minister Gent Cakaj wrote on Twitter. "Justification of war atrocities during the Yugoslavia break-up must not be rewarded. This will solely strengthen the state of denial that must be overcome and strongly condemned," he said. A spokeswoman for the Albanian Foreign Ministry confirmed it was the country's official position.  The Turkish ambassador to Sweden, Hakki Emre Yunt, told Turkish broadcaster Hurriyet on Dec 9 he would not attend the awards ceremony the next day in Stockholm, where at least two anti-Handke demonstrations are expected to unfold. Acting Albanian Foreign Minister Gent Cakaj announced a similar move, writing in a tweet that "justification of war atrocities during the Yugoslavia breakup must not be rewarded."

Hundreds of people are expected to assemble for an anti-Handke protest at the Norrmalmstorg Square in central Stockholm. Another demonstration is planned outside the Stockholm Concert Hall, where the prize ceremony takes place. Handke's win was immediately met with outrage in many parts of the Balkans and elsewhere because of the eulogy he delivered at Milosevic's 2006 funeral in honor of the former president. Milosevic died while being tried by a UN war crimes tribunal in the Netherlands for genocide and other war crimes committed during the conflicts that followed the breakup of Yugoslavia in the 1990s.

A defiant Handke on Friday dismissed questions about his support for Milosevic during a news conference in Stockholm. Handke did not answer questions about his support for Milosevic during a Dec  6 news conference in Stockholm. "I like literature, not opinions," he told reporters. Handke is to be formally handed the 9 million-crown ($935,000) (Rs.6.6 cr) award on December 10 before attending the traditional Nobel banquet later this day.

With regards – S. Sampathkumar
10th Dec 2019.

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