Algerian Writer Denied Prize Money

Boualem Sansal im Gespräch mit Barbara Wahlster
Boualem Sansal im Gespräch mit Barbara Wahlster (Photo credit: Das blaue Sofa)

I saw this article from the Times of Israel on The Drudge Report. There is an Algerian writer named Boualem Sansal who won a literary prize but will not be receiving the prize of 15,000 euros. He has committed a crime serious enough that the Arab sponsors could not, in good conscience, give him the money. He visited Israel.

Well-known Algerian writer Boualem Sansal received a prestigious French literary award Thursday. However, he did not get the prize of 15,000 euros he had been slated to receive, as the fact that he had visited Israel prompted the Arab sponsors of the prize to withdraw their support, according to a report by French24.

The Editions Gallimard Arabic Novel prize has been granted by the Arab Ambassadors Council, which is based in Paris, since 2008. In the past, the prize was comprised of both an award and a cash prize.

Sansal was nominated for the prize for his book “Rue Darwin” (Darwin Street). However, after being named the winner, he attended the Jerusalem Writers Festival, which took place in May. He was invited to the festival as the guest of honor. Palestinian groups slammed his decision to attend, with Hamas reportedly calling his participation “an act of treason against the Palestinian people.”

After a protracted argument, Sansal was given his award on Thursday, but without the prize money, France24 reported.

At least he got the award. Sansal was not really happy with the compromise.

Commenting on the decision to withdraw the prize money, laureate Sansal said it was “completely unacceptable,” adding that Arab countries – and his home country, Algeria, in particular – had “shut themselves in a prison of intolerance.”

I wonder if he had just figured that out. Arab countries have been in a prison of intolerance for centuries and the “Arab Spring” is likely to make things worse.

Sansal added that in order to truly help the Palestinians, individuals like himself should be able to visit Israel freely. “Yes, there are complicated relations with Israel, but we are not at war with them,” he said.

He doesn’t seem to have gotten the message that the Arab countries are indeed at war with Israel, and have been since 1948. The spokeswoman for the Arab Ambassadors Council sees things somewhat more clearly.

A spokeswoman for the Arab Ambassadors Council claimed the council’s decision had not been influenced by the Hamas statement on the matter.

However, she said, “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.”

I like that last sentence. It is not like the founder of their religion would order the death of poets he didn’t like. Well, actually he did.

I think that Boualem Sansal, and perhaps many other Arabic literary figures, would be well advised to move out of Algeria. Since he visited Israel and is considered a traitor, it is only a matter of time before they start saying he is a Zionist agent.



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