Posts Tagged ‘literary awards’

Revoking of Kamila Shamsie’s Dortmund book award is fiercely contested

September 25, 2019

Kamila Shamsie.
Kamila Shamsie. Photograph: Teri Pengilley/The Guardian

The judges had initially chosen Shamsie for writing that “builds bridges between societies”, but changed their minds on learning she backed the BDS movement, saying that her “political positioning to actively participate in the cultural boycott … contrasts with the claim of the Nelly Sachs prize to proclaim and exemplify reconciliation among peoples and cultures”.

Shamsie’s supporters reply asks: “What is the meaning of a literary award that undermines the right to advocate for human rights, the principles of freedom of conscience and expression and the freedom to criticise? … Without these, art and culture become meaningless luxuries.”

The revoking of Shamsie’s award follows a motion passed in May by the German parliament that labelled the BDS movement antisemitic. But the letter writers point to a decision earlier this month in the administrative court of Cologne ruling that Bonn city council’s decision to exclude the German-Palestinian Women’s Association from a cultural festival because of its support for BDS was unjustified. The writers highlight the statement last year from more than 40 progressive Jewish organisations arguing that conflating anti-Jewish racism with opposition to Israel’s policies and system of occupation and apartheid “undermines both the Palestinian struggle for freedom, justice and equality and the global struggle against antisemitism”.

The letter also criticises the German city of Dortmund, which runs the award, for refusing to make public Shamsie’s written response to the decision.

Shamsie, winner of the UK’s Women’s prize for fiction, had called it a “matter of outrage that the BDS movement (modelled on the South African boycott) that campaigns against the government of Israel for its acts of discrimination and brutality against Palestinians should be held up as something shameful and unjust”. Asked to comment, a spokeswoman for the city of Dortmund said that the jury had decided not to give any further statements. “The council has legitimated the jury of Nelly Sachs prize to choose an awardee,” she said. “The jury is autonomous in its decision and gave reasons in the press release. There has been no council meeting after the jury’s decision, so the withdrawal has not been a topic for the council yet.”

https://www.theguardian.com/books/2019/sep/23/hundreds-of-authors-protest-after-kamila-shamsies-book-award-is-revoked

https://www.timesofisrael.com/writers-defend-uk-author-stripped-of-prize-for-her-support-of-israel-boycott/

http://english.wafa.ps/page.aspx?id=qfv8dda113530808358aqfv8dd

https://www.dawn.com/news/1507849

“The Boy At The Back Of The Class” gets upgraded

March 24, 2019

The founder of a London human rights organisation (Making Herstory) has won the Waterstones Children’s Book Prize 2019 for her story about a Syrian child refugee. Onjali Q. Raúf won the award for her The Boy At The Back Of The Class, which tells the story of Ahmet, a nine-year-old Syrian boy who moves to a new school after fleeing his war-torn homeland, won best story.

The Boy At The Back Of The Class was inspired by the children she met while working in refugee camps. The story follows the arrival of Ahmet, separated from his family, in a strange new world. When none of the grown-ups seem to be able to help him, Ahmet’s new school friends “come up with a daring plan, embarking on a seemingly madcap adventure”. The Waterstones prize judges said: “Told with heart and humour, it’s a child’s perspective on the refugee crisis, highlighting the importance of friendship and kindness in a world that doesn’t always make sense”.  James Daunt, Waterstones Managing Director, said: “It is, notwithstanding its urgent contemporary relevance, a book that is funny, generous and vivid. It is a joy to read, and we recommend it unreservedly.”

Read more at: https://inews.co.uk/culture/arts/syrian-child-refugee-story-wins-waterstones-childrens-book-prize-2019/

Manus Island detainee Behrouz Boochani wins major literary prize putting more pressure on detention policy

February 4, 2019

Behrouz Boochani in November, 2017. Picture: Jason Garman/Amnesty International
Behrouz Boochani in November, 2017. Picture: Jason Garman/Amnesty International

With one of the MEA 2019 final nominees being detained on Manus island in the same way [see: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2018/10/24/breaking-news-ennals-award-announces-its-3-finalists-for-2019/ ] it is relevant to note that another such detainee has won literary awards in Australia! Iranian-Kurdish journalist and poet Behrouz Boochani won the richest Australian Victorian Prize for Literature ($100,000) for his hellish first-hand account of life as a detainee on the island. His book, No Friend But The Mountains: Writing From Manus Prison, also won the $25,000 prize for nonfiction at Victorian Premier’s Literary Awards on 31 January 2019. (The eligibility criteria requiring that the authors be Australian citizens or permanent residents was overlooked to award the prize.

Mr Boochani told the Herald Sun from Manus Island, where he has been detained for more than five years, that the award was a victory for literature, resistance and humanity. But, he added: “I don’t want to celebrate this achievement while I still see many innocent people suffering around me.

No Friend But The Mountains.

If I could be there to accept the award I would explain how this award is a morality failure for Australia,” Mr Boochani said. “It is not just a failure on the part of the Australian government but a historical and moral defeat for those parts of the society who have been silent in the face of a barbaric policy over these years…It’s a huge cause of shame for a government that did not recognise us as human beings and did not recognise our human rights. It’s a challenge against a system that has lied to the public over the past years.”.


On 1 February University of Melbourne, followed up with a thoughtful piece on why “Behrouz Boochani’s literary prize cements his status as an Australian writer”

Other Australian authors have also used their voices to bring attention to the plight of asylum seekers. During her acceptance speech for her second Miles Franklin Award in August 2018, Michelle de Kretser chastised politicians for their treatment of refugees on Nauru and Manus Island. To illustrate her point, she read a list of names of asylum seekers who have died there in the past five years. It is tempting to dismiss such actions as gesture politics by an urban elite. But each individual action has served to raise awareness of the Australian government’s policy of “offshore processing” for asylum seekers, and to fuse artistic expression with political activism in a particularly forceful manner.

The author has been awarded the Anna Politkovskaya Award (for investigative journalism), the Amnesty International Award (Australian section) and Liberty Victoria’s Empty Chair Award. These humanitarian awards have confirmed Boochani’s rapidly acquired high profile in the literary field. Last night’s news topped all of that to make Boochani the first “non-Australian” author to win the Victorian Premier’s Literary Awards. The Victorian government established these awards in 1985 to honour Australian writing. The specific challenge this poses to the definition of “Australian writing” can be seen as an intervention by the literary community into the field of politics. If a non-citizen who has never set foot on mainland Australia can win, who counts as an Australian author?…

With no clear solution to the indefinite detention of asylum seekers on Manus and Nauru in sight, the paradox of Boochani’s award success can only contribute further to public debate over the tangled logic of indefinite detention. It shows how cultural practices and political activism can be reconfigured to correspond with the newly created literary currency associated with refugee writing. For now, at least, Boochani is an “Australian writer” because Australia is morally implicated in what he wrote and how he wrote it.

Also won in 2019: https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2019/08/kurdish-iranian-behrouz-boochani-wins-australian-biography-prize-190812071100746.html

See also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2018/12/04/mea-nominee-aziz-abdul-muhamat-suffers-under-australias-endless-detention-policy/

https://www.heraldsun.com.au/news/victoria/manus-island-detainee-behrouz-boochani-wins-literary-prize/news-story/b57918c19d7f4c9a88ef532001b4f164

https://theconversation.com/behrouz-boochanis-literary-prize-cements-his-status-as-an-australian-writer-110986