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Peter Handke responds on Yugoslavia



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PETER HANDKE RESPONDS
ON THE QUESTION OF YUGOSLAVIA

So let's talk about Yugoslavia!
Liberation (French Daily: Tuesday, May 10, 2006)

Finally, after more than a decade of one-way journalistic language that in
no way made sense, an opening seems to have been created in France in the
press (1), and perhaps not only in France, to speak about things
differently? or simply to start speaking? about Yugoslavia.

A debate, a discussion, a discourse ? A fruitful discussion seems to have
become possible, a general questioning, of reports that speak for
themselves... Previously: nothing, and still more nothing? defamations
instead of a debate, expressed by exclusively prefabricated words, repeated
ad infinitum, used like an automatic weapon.

So let's enlarge this breach or opening, the springtime of words. Let us at
last hear one another instead of screaming and snarling launched from two
enemy camps. But also, let's no longer tolerate beings (?), evil (!)
spirits (?), who, with respect to the tragic Yugoslav problem, continue
firing word-bullets like "revisionism," "apartheid," "Hitler," "bloody
dictatorship," etc. Let's stop all the comparisons and all the parallels
made about the wars in Yugoslavia. Let's stick to the facts which, like the
facts of a civil war, unleashed or at least co-produced by European bad
faith or, at least, ignorance, already punctured, are terrible enough from
all sides. Let's stop comparing Slobodan Milosevic to Hitler. Let's stop
comparing him and his wife Mira Markovic to Macbeth and his Lady and let's
stop drawing parallels between the couple and the dictator Ceaucescu and
his wife Elena. And let's never again use the expression "concentration
camps" for the camps established during the war of succession in Yugoslavia.

True: intolerable camps existed between 1992 and 1995 on the territory of
the Yugoslav Republics, chiefly in Bosnia. Let's stop the exclusive and
mechanical association of these camps with the Bosnian Serbs: there were
also Croat and Muslim camps, and the crimes committed in these camps are
and will be judged by The Hague Tribunal. And finally, let's stop
associating massacres (of which there were many in Srebrenica in July 1995,
and are in fact by far the most abominable) to Serbian forces or
paramilitaries. Let's also listen finally to the survivors of the massacres
committed by Muslims in the numerous Serbian villages that surround
Srebrenica, the Muslim town, massacres committed over and over again during
the three years before the fall of Srebrenica, massacres led by the
commander of Srebrenica, leading in July 1995 to infernal vengeance, to
eternal shame for those Bosnian Serbs responsible for it for the great
butchery, and for once the oft-repeated word is in its proper place in the
phrase "the greatest in Europe since World War II," while adding,
nevertheless, this piece of information: that all the soldiers or Muslim
men from Srebrenica who fled from Bosnia into Serbia by crossing the Drina
River, the border between the two States, fled to Serbia, the country that
was at the time under Milosevic's rule, and that all these soldiers who
arrived in Serbia, a so-called enemy, were saved. No butchery or massacre
there.

Yes, let's listen, after having listened to the "Mothers of Srebrenica,"
let's also listen to the mothers or one single mother from the village of
Kravica, Serbian, close by, recount the Orthodox Christmas massacre in
1992-1993, committed by Muslim forces from Srebrenica, a massacre also
conducted against the women and children of Kravica (the only crime for
which the word genocide is appropriate).

And let's stop blindly associating the "snipers" of Sarajevo with "the
Serbs": most of the French members of the UN peacekeeping force who were
killed in Sarajevo were victims of Muslim gunmen. And let's stop
associating the siege (horrible, stupid, incomprehensible) of Sarajevo
exclusively with the Bosnian Serbs: in Sarajevo during 1992-1995, tens of
thousands of the Serbian population remained blockaded in central
neighborhoods like Grbavica, which were in turn put under siege - and how!
- by Muslim forces. And let's stop attributing rapes exclusively to Serbs.
And let's stop connecting words unilaterally, like one of Pavlov's dogs.
Let's enlarge the opening. May the breach never again be choked by rotten
and poisoned words. Evil spirits out. Leave language once and for all.
Let's learn the art of the question, let's make a trip to the sonorous
land, in the name of Yugoslavia, in the name of another Europe. Long live
the other Europe! Long live Yugoslavia! Zivela Jugoslavia.

(1) See, among other things, the articles by Brigitte Salino and d'Anne
Weber in Le Monde, May 4, 2006; the commentary by Piere Macrabru in Le
Figaro, which was published on the same day; and the appeal made by
Christian Salmon in Liberation on May 5, 2006.


Translated by Milo Yelesiyevich