Jury considers nixing German literature prize for author backing Israel boycott
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Jury considers nixing German literature prize for author backing Israel boycott

Nelly Sachs award panel says it’s reviewing honor for British writer Kamila Shamsie, who refuses to have her work published in Jewish state

British Pakistani novelist Kamila Shamsie at the annual Edinburgh International Book Festival in Edinburgh, Scotland, on August 22, 2018. (Roberto Ricciuti/Getty Images)
British Pakistani novelist Kamila Shamsie at the annual Edinburgh International Book Festival in Edinburgh, Scotland, on August 22, 2018. (Roberto Ricciuti/Getty Images)

The jury for the Nelly Sachs literature prize in the city of Dortmund is reconsidering its decision to honor an author who supports the anti-Israel boycott movement.

An announcement is expected soon regarding the planned honor for British author Kamila Shamsie, Spiegel magazine reported on Thursday.

The prize, named for the Jewish Nobel Prize-winning German-born poet and playwright Nelly Sachs (1891-1970), recognizes authors who champion “tolerance, respect and reconciliation.” The 15,000-euro prize, or about $16,500, is presented every two years.

Shamsie, born in Pakistan, was slated to receive the prize for work that “builds bridges between societies.”

But Shamsie supports the anti-Israel BDS movement, which the German Bundestag declared in a resolution last spring to be anti-Semitic. Several German cities had already passed laws barring any official support for the movement.

Shamsie has refused to have her works published in Israel, and reiterated her support for the boycott movement on Wednesday.

The prize jury said Thursday that it was reconsidering its choice, and Shamsie herself urged the city to nominate someone else, according to Spiegel magazine. The city administration said in a statement that the jury had not known of Shamsie’s political views during its deliberations.

Past winners of the Nelly Sachs prize include Margaret Atwood, Rafik Schami, Christa Wolf and Milan Kundera.

The German ruhrbarone blog was the first to question the planned award.

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