Arab publishers exit Frankfurt Book Fair over cancelling Palestinian author award

Zeinab El-Gundy , Sunday 15 Oct 2023

Several renowned Arab publishing houses announced that they withdrew from the Frankfurt International Book Fair 2023 to object to its decision to cancel an award ceremony of Palestinian Author Adania Shibli and the fair’s support of Israel.

 Adania Shibli


The German book fair, held from 18 to 22 October, announced that it cancelled the prize-giving ceremony in which Palestinian author Adania Shibli should have received the LiBeraturpreis literature award for her novel “Minor Details.”

The ceremony was to be held on Friday, 20 October.

Frankfurt Book Fair director Juergen Boos stated that the fair stands in "full solidarity with Israel,” and therefore will work on “making Jewish and Israeli voices more conspicuous”.

Boos even went as far as announcing that the fair will host what he described as “renowned Israeli authors” on 21 October.  

Cairo-based Arab Publishers Association issued a statement declaring that it will not participate in this edition of the fair, citing the fair’s biased and unfair position on the current tragic events in the region. 

“We certainly condemn any attack on any civilian regardless of nationality, but having such a tunnel vision of the Palestinian issue and accepting the injustice the Palestinian people have been subjected to for decades is a dreadful mistake,” the Association said in its statement. 

On Saturday, the Sharjah Book Authority also announced its decision to withdraw from the Frankfurt Book Fair in protest over the fair's support for Israel and its cancellation of Palestinian author Adania Shibli’s prize-giving ceremony.  

LitProm, the organizers of the LiBeraturpreis award ceremony, said the ceremony was cancelled in agreement with Shibli, describing what it called the “current climate” as “unconducive to celebrations.” 

Adania Shibli won the award for the German translation of her 2017 novel “Minor Details” 

“Minor Details” revolves around an incident involving the rape, killing, and burial of a young Palestinian Bedouin by a group of Israeli soldiers in the Negev desert in 1949. 

The novel, which was translated into several languages, was highly praised and received positive reviews.

It was also among the finalist books for the 2020 US-National Books Awards for translated literature and longlisted books for the 2021 International Booker Prize. 

LiBeraturpeis Award honours women writers from the Global South for a work newly published in German. 

Renowned Arab writers also renounced the fair’s partiality toward Israel and Israelis.

Award-winning Algerian novelist Said Khatibi cancelled his participation in this year's edition of the fair.   

Famous Kuwaiti poetess and writer Sheikha Souad El-Sabah announced on Saturday that her publishing house was withdrawing from the fair for condoning “the Zionist aggression against the people of Gaza while supporting Israeli voices to justify Israel’s aggression.”

El-Sabah also cited the cancellation of Adania Shibli’s prize-giving ceremony as another reason for boycotting the fair.

Canada-based Arabic-language publishing house Maasa also announced withdrawing from the fair in opposition to the fair’s blatant support for Israel and for cancelling Adania Shibli’s prize-giving ceremony.

Saudi-based Publishing House Aseer Al-Kotob announced on Saturday that it was withdrawing from the fair owing to its support for “Israeli occupation in its war against Gaza.”

The publishing house declared it stands in full solidarity with the Palestinian people and their just cause.

It also stressed its full support of author Adania Shibli, whose rights the publishing house said were “infringed,” adding that readers’ love is the one prize “no one can withhold.”

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