The Slovenia Times

Frankfurt fair's delay of Palestinian author prize met with disapproval in Slovenia

CultureSlovenia at Frankfurt Book Fair
Culture Minister Asta Vrečko (centre) and the head of the Franfurt Book Fair, Juergen Boos (right). Photo: Frankfurt Book Fair

The Frankfurt Book Fair's decision to postpone the award ceremony for Palestinian author Adania Shibli in light of the Israel-Hamas war has been criticised in Slovenia, the guest of honour at this year's fair.

Shibli was to be honoured for her novel about the 1949 murder of a Palestinian girl by Israeli soldiers. The decision to postpone the award has sparked condemnation from a number of leading writers and the withdrawal of many Arab publishers from the fair.

On the eve of the 17 October opening ceremony, which she is due to attend, Slovenian Culture Minister Asta Vrečko said that "culture and the arts must never be subjected to exploitation for political purposes and the creation of new divisions".

"Culture and the arts are the social fabric that fosters dialogue, understanding of the other and multiple positions, helping to reflect on complex relationships and social situations," she added.

Vrečko, who comes from the Left, a party that advocates for Palestine to be recognised as an independent country, argued that the Frankfurt fair was a space for dialogue and an opportunity to shed new light on the suffering of civilians in this and other wars.

It is also an opportunity to send a message of peace and respect for international law, including the Geneva Convention, and demand immediate humanitarian care for the civilian population in Gaza, the minister said.

"We must not relativise Hamas's attack on Israeli civilians. But if we do not start talking about the situation of the Palestinians, the spiral of violence will only deepen. Cancellations of events that have already been announced do not contribute to solving the problem, but only remove it from our sight and thus only create further discontent," she added.

PEN Slovenia and PEN Berlin have joined those condemning the postponement of the award ceremony, arguing the ceremony could be an opportunity for a united Israeli-Palestinian call for a ceasefire and peace.

Moreover, Algerian writer Said Khatibi, who has been living in Slovenia for several years, has condemned the award ceremony postponement as well as Frankfurt Book Fair director Juergen Boos's comment that the fair "is standing with complete solidarity on the side of Israel". He cancelled his participation at the fair in protest.


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