Culture Supplement

Neziraj: Democracy cannot be taken for granted

Jeton Neziraj: I would like to be a citizen of a world where brave people live and create, who understand that democracy cannot be taken for granted. We must maintain it together because the enemies of peace and democracy are sharpening their swords

The Kosovar playwright Jeton Neziraj went through the repressions of the Milosevic regime and the hell of the civil war during his dramaturgy studies. After the establishment of the Republic of Kosovo, he worked as artistic director of the National Theater there. So far he has written more than twenty-five plays, which have been staged throughout Europe and the United States of America. In 2018, the Office of the European Union in Kosovo awarded him the "European of the Year" award. He is the recipient of the Europe Culture Award 2020 and the International Theater Award 2021 announced by the New York company, "Playwrights Realm". He founded and manages the theater and production company "Cendra Multimedia", based in Pristina, bringing to "Palm Of Fest" the theater co-production "The Handke Project" awarded by "Journèes de Lyopn des Auteurs de Theátre". His play "Negotiating Peace" had its Czech premiere at the Prague City Theatre.

Divadelni Noviny: Who gave the idea for "The Handke Project"?

Lives Neziraj: Peter Handke came to prominence in the Balkan media and in the public eye in the 90s, when he began writing political texts in support of Serbia and Slobodan Milosevic. Attention to his work and controversial texts increased after he received the Nobel Prize for literature. I personally became interested in it in 2019, when the "Multimedia Center" and I were engaged to produce a show for the Volskbühne theater in Berlin. I wrote The Return of Karl May, a play which confronts the audience with the almost demonizing attitude of Western Europe towards the East. In one scene, May's character, Kara Ben Nemsi, meets Peter Handken. After finishing the drama, I realized that Handke deserved more attention. My next work would be a drama in which I try to understand how we, as artists, can remain committed to artistic freedom while being fully aware of the responsibility we have to our audience. Thus, in "The Handke Project" we were not so much interested in Peter Handken (as an individual), but rather in the "Peter Handke phenomenon", a living example of European hypocrisy, which is able to present fascism as an expression of artistic freedom, even appreciate it.