German literary association Litprom on October 13 announced that it was canceling an October 20 ceremony celebrating Palestinian-born novelist Adania Shibli’s win of the 2023 LiBeraturpreis, “due to the war started by Hamas, under which millions of people in Israel and Palestine are suffering.” The honor is awarded annually to a female writer from Africa, Asia, Latin America, or the Arab world, and is meant to elevate voices from these regions. The LiBeraturpreis is typically presented at a ceremony taking place during the Frankfurt Book Fair, the world’s biggest book trade event. Shibli won the prize on the strength of the 2022 German translation of her 2017 bookMinor Detail, which takes as its topic the1949 rape and murderof a young Bedouin girl by Israeli soldiers, and the subsequent obsession, decades later, of a female journalist living in Ramallah with this crime. The book was lauded for its author’s signature detached style, with Litprom hailing it as a “rigorously composed work of art that tells of the power of borders and what violent conflicts do to and with people.” Its 2020 English translation was nominated for both the National Book Award and an International Booker Prize.RelatedHELEN FRANKENTHALER FOUNDATION SUED FOR “DESTROYING” PAINTER’S LEGACYBMA CREATES PAID INTERNSHIPS HONORING VALERIE MAYNARD Litprom is partly funded by the German government, which has been criticized byAmnesty International, among other organizations, for conflating criticism of Israel with anti-Semitism and for silencing supporters of Palestinian rights. Litprom originally cast the decision to cancel the prize ceremony as jointly taken with Shibli. This proved to be untrue, and Litprom amended its statement to reflect this.
By the morning of October 16, however, more than six hundred authors and publishers had signed anopen letterdenouncing the decision to cancel the celebration and demanding that the book fair reinstate the event. Signatories include Wallace Shawn, Natalie Diaz, Colm Tóibín, Eileen Myles, Hari Kunzru, Rachel Kushner, and hundreds of other writers and publishers. “One of the purposes of literature is to encourage understanding and dialogue between cultures,” wrote Jacques Testard, founder of Shibli’s UK publisher, Fitzcarraldo Editions, in the open letter. “At a time of such horrific violence and heartbreak, the world’s biggest book fair has a duty to champion literary voices from Palestine and Israel. We stand in solidarity with Adania Shibli and her German publishers, Berenberg Verlag.”.