Algerian writer Boualem Sansal have been stripped of his literary prize of 15,000 euros after the Arab sponsors of the award learned that he had visited Israel. Originally, the Editions Gallimard Arabic Novel prize was withdrawn entirely, but under pressure Sansal was given the prestigious French literary award but not the cash. The incident has tarnished the image of the award and undermined its commitment to artistic expression.
The prize is granted by the Arab Ambassadors Council, based in Paris. Sansal was nominated for the prize for his book “Rue Darwin” (Darwin Street). He then attended the Jerusalem Writers Festival last May as a guest of honor. The trip was denounced by Hamas as “an act of treason against the Palestinian people.”
Sansal denounced how Arabs had “shut themselves in a prison of intolerance.” He is of course correct. Sansal and other artists are the greatest hope for achieving greater understanding between peoples. These sponsors have turned a worthy artistic award into the very symbolic of orthodoxy and intolerance.
A spokeswoman for the Arab Ambassadors Council insisted that “The Ambassadors are subject to the official position of the Arab League which considers itself effectively in a state of war with Israel. The council is obliged to follow directives from the Arab League. Every ambassador regrets that this has happened. They would never want to interfere with literature.” Here’s an idea. Why not resign rather than try to strip an artist of his recognition and later strip him of his award? It is a lot like saying that “we were the unwitting vehicle of intolerance.” The award is now hopelessly compromised unless the AAC denounces the actions taken against this writer and establish clear guidelines to avoid such retaliation in the future.
Source: Times of Israel