Author stripped of prestigious literary prize over support for BDS

Author stripped of prestigious literary prize over support for BDS

Roger Waters and Brian Eno among 250 people who co-sign letter of support for British-Pakistani writer Kamila Shamsie, after she is denied the Nelly Sachs prize

Kamila Shamsie at Hay Festival 2016 (Wikipedia/Andrew Lih)
Kamila Shamsie at Hay Festival 2016 (Wikipedia/Andrew Lih)

More than 250 writers have come to the defence of author Kamila Shamsie, after a German literary prize withdrew its award due to her support for the anti-Israel boycott movement.

They signed an open letter published on Monday in the London Review of Books that said that the Nelly Sachs prize has chosen to “punish an author for her human rights advocacy.”

The prize, named for the Jewish Nobel Prize-winning German-born poet and playwright Nelly Sachs (1891-1970), recognises authors who champion “tolerance, respect and reconciliation.”

The 15,000-euro (£13,200) prize is presented every two years. The German city of Dortmund runs the award.

Shamsie has refused to allow her works to be published in Israel.

Among those signing the letter in support of Shamsie, included left-wing academic

The eight-member jury awarded Pakistan-born Brit Shamsie the prize on September 6, but after learning of her support for the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions Movement against Israel announced on September 20 that it would withdraw the award.

Shamsie responded that it was a matter of great sadness to her “that a jury should bow to pressure and withdraw a prize from a writer who is exercising her freedom of conscience and freedom of expression,” The Guardian reported.

In May, the German parliament passed a motion labelling the BDS movement as antisemitic.

“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,” said the letter, circulated by writers Ahdaf Soueif and Omar Robert Hamilton, co-founders of the Palestine festival of literature.

read more: