PARIS, April 27, 2006 (AFP) - France's best-known theatre company, the Comédie Française, has decided to censor a work by the leading Austrian playwright Peter Handke because of his support for the late Yugoslav leader Slobodan Milosevic.
Handke's 'Voyage to the Sonorous Land or the Art of Asking' was to have been put on next January, but was withdrawn from the repertoire a few days ahead of next week's announcement of the forthcoming season, the theatre said Thursday.
The company's administrator Marcel Bozonnet took the decision after reading a press report about Handke's presence at Milosevic's funeral in Serbia on March 18, a theatre spokesman said.
Milosevic died on March 11 in Milosevic died on March 11 in genocide and war crimes at the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY).
Handke, 63, who is well-known for his pro-Serb views, gave a eulogy at the funeral in which he said he was "happy to be beside Slobodan Milosevic, a man who defended his people."
According to the article in Le Nouvel Observateur magazine, the writer appeared "waving a Serb flag, pressing forward to touch the coffin and laying on it a red rose."
"It's true that my heart missed a beat when I read that article," Bozonnet told Le Monde newspaper.
"The theatre is a tribune, its effect goes far beyond the audience at a single performance. Even if this work of Handke is not a piece of propaganda, (performing it) lends its author public visibility. And I didn't want to give him that," he said.
"Handke's presence at Milosevic's funeral was an outrage to the victims," he said.
The oldest theatre troupe in the Western world, the Comédie Française was founded by King Louis XIV in 1681 and is based at the Salle Richelieu near the Palais Royal in central Paris. Actors take part in decision-making.
Handke's play was to have been played at the company's second premises, the Theatre du Vieux-Colombier in the Latin Quarter.
Born in 1942, Handke is a prolific avant-garde playwright and novelist best known for co-writing the screenplay for German filmmaker Wim Wenders' 'Wings of Desire'.
He has courted controversy since the mid-1990s, when he wrote 'A Journey to the Rivers: Justice for Serbia', portraying Serbia as the main victim of the Balkan wars.
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