via NYTimes Magazine:
Questions for Peter Handke
Facing His Critics
Interview by DEBORAH SOLOMON
Published: July 2, 2006
Q: As one of the most revered novelists and playwrights in Europe, how have you managed to create such an uproar and infuriate so many of your devoted readers?
I think it was because I assisted with the funeral of Slobodan Milosevic in his hometown of Pozarevac, in Serbia.
Yes, you spoke at his funeral in March. Why would you attend the funeral of a man who died while he was on trial for war crimes?
I think he was a rather tragic man. Not a hero, but a tragic human being. But I am a writer and not a judge. I'm a lover of Yugoslavia — not so much Serbia, but Yugoslavia — and I wanted to accompany the fall of my favorite country in Europe, and this is one of the reasons to be at the funeral.
Why are you so moved by the former Yugoslavia?
I'm Austrian, but my mother was Slovenian. Her brother became a partisan of Yugoslavia between the two World Wars, and when Hitler annexed Austria — my uncle was Austrian — he was forced into the Nazi army. He died in Russia long ago. This was the beginning of my writing, the stories my mother told about her dead brother. It started very early for me when I was a child.
I see the Comédie-Française, the French national theater, has just canceled a scheduled production of your play "Voyage to the Sonorous Land, or the Art of Asking."
Yes, this is true, because of my assistance at the funeral.
What about the Heinrich Heine Prize, the prestigious $63,000 award you just returned to the city of Düsseldorf?
Ah, this was strange, too. The German politicians thought that I was not the right man for the award. And there was a lot of noise. Finally I told myself, Leave them alone. It's finished now.
Do you have enough money without the prize?
We shall see. If you send me something.. . .
When is your next novel coming out in the United States?
In several months. It's very difficult to translate. It's called "The Loss of the Image." It's a medieval novel about modern times. The hero is a woman banker who is starting to forget herself in the Spanish mountains.
You're generally described as an avant-garde novelist and playwright.
Me? No, I'm a classical writer. I'm a conservative classical writer.
What does that mean?
With a lot of air in it. With a lot of snow flurries and summer breezes in the books.
But your best writing is hardly naturalistic. I'm thinking of "A Sorrow Beyond Dreams," which has just been republished in this country.
When they review my books, the reviewers always say it is very beautiful, but it lacks plot or intrigue. I don't like intrigue. I'm not a man of intrigue.
Nor of politics, really. In 1966, at what is now a historic conference at Princeton University, you tore into Günter Grass and Heinrich Böll, claiming that they demeaned the novel by turning it into a form of social criticism.
Yes, but in my novels I never do this. Not even now. Language is language, and language is not for opinions.
What is language for?
This is the question! This is a big question, and there is no answer. Language exists to become language in the great books.
Aren't we using language now in this conversation?
The most real dialogue for me is when I am alone, writing.
Do you think a conversation between two people can communicate anything?
Sure. But you have to know that this is a game. It can become at moments very touching and serious, but it starts as a game and it should end as a game.
You have often been mentioned as a candidate for the Nobel Prize in Literature. Do you care about winning?
When I was younger I cared. Now I think it's finished for me after my expressions about Yugoslavia.
How old are you?
I will be 64 in December, like Paul McCartney.
You're pretty young.
I am neither pretty nor young.