Frankfurt Book Fair Cancels Award Ceremony for Palestinian Author

An award ceremony that was set to honor a novel by a Palestinian author at the Frankfurt Book Fair next week was canceled on Friday “due to the war in Israel,” according to Litprom, the German literary association that organizes the prize.

In a statement, Litprom added that the decision was made jointly with the book’s author, Adania Shibli. The novel, called “A Minor Matter” in English, tells the true story of the 1949 rape and murder of a Palestinian Bedouin girl by Israeli soldiers, according to its German publisher, Berenberg Verlag.

A German-language version translated from the original Arabic was published in 2022, and a previous English translation was nominated for a National Book Award in 2020 and the International Booker Prize in 2021.

The ceremony was intended to celebrate the novel for winning the 2023 LiBeraturpreis, a German literature prize awarded annually to an author from Africa, Asia, Latin America or the Arab world and presented at the Frankfurt Book Fair, one of the global publishing industry’s largest gatherings.

The controversy in Germany surrounding the novel began this summer when Ulrich Noller, a journalist on the Litprom jury, resigned over the decision to give the literature prize to Ms. Shibli’s novel. A literary critic with Die Tageszeitung, a left-leaning German newspaper, reignited the debate this week, accusing the book of portraying “the State of Israel as a murder machine,” though other German critics have praised the novel.

The Israel-Hamas war has inflamed longstanding divisions among Germany’s cultural institutions over support for Israel. In 2020, dozens of the country’s foremost cultural groups raised concerns that they could face charges of antisemitism over links — real or perceived — to the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement against Israel, known as B.D.S. Germany’s Parliament has designated B.D.S. as antisemitic, and called on Germany’s states, which provide the majority of arts funding in the country, to deny subsidies to groups or individuals that “actively support” the campaign.

Juergen Boos, the Frankfurt Book Fair’s director, said in a statement that the organization strongly condemned “Hamas’s barbaric terror against Israel,” adding, “Our thoughts are with the victims, their relatives and all the people suffering from this war.”

Politics have sometimes loomed large over the Frankfurt Book Fair, which became a stage for European leaders to campaign against rising far-right parties in 2017, and faced a boycott from Iran in 2015, when Salman Rushdie attended the event. (Mr. Rushdie is set to return to the fair this year.)

In the statement, Mr. Boos said that organizers had “spontaneously decided to create additional stage moments for Israeli voices” at the fair.

The event will be held from Oct. 18 to 22. Litprom said it is searching for a “suitable format and setting” to hold the award ceremony after the fair concludes.

Back to top button