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Mon Sep 23, 2019, 06:07 PM

Hundreds of authors protest after Kamila Shamsie's book award is revoked

Source: The Guardian

Hundreds of authors protest after Kamila Shamsie's book award is revoked

Nelly Sachs prize was withdrawn over Shamsie’s support for boycotting Israel, prompting more than 250 fellow writers to defend her stance

Alison Flood
Mon 23 Sep 2019 11.20 BST
Last modified on Mon 23 Sep 2019 19.10 BST

Arundhati Roy, JM Coetzee and Sally Rooney are among more than 250 writers who have defended Kamila Shamsie after a German literary prize withdrew an award over her support for the Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) movement against Israel.

In an open letter published today in the London Review of Books, the writers, who also include Noam Chomsky, Amit Chaudhuri, William Dalrymple, Yann Martel, Jeanette Winterson and Ben Okri, say that the Nelly Sachs prize has chosen to “punish an author for her human rights advocacy”. Michael Ondaatje, a former winner of the award, is one of the signatories to the letter.

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 ask: “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 letter had more than 100 signatories a day after it began to be circulated by the writers Ahdaf Soueif and Omar Robert Hamilton, co-founders of the Palestine festival of literature.

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

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