KUALA LUMPUR: Hund­reds of international writers have condemned a literary association and the Frankfurt Book Fair, the world’s largest forum for books and literature, after a Palestinian writer’s award was postponed and a public discussion with her cancelled.

The Malaysian government said on Tuesday it would boycott the fair entirely because of the postponement and after the fair said it would highlight Israeli voices following the Hamas raid on Israel.

Adania Shibli, a Palestinian novelist who divides her time between Berlin and Jerusalem, had been due to receive a prize for “literature from the developing world” for her novel Minor Detail at the Frankfurt Book Fair.

The novel, an account of the 1948 war in which clashes bet­ween Arabs and Jews saw hundreds of thousands of Pales­tinians driven from their homes, one of the forma­tive moments of the long-lasting Arab-Israeli conflict, has drawn comparisons with the works of Albert Camus.

Litprom, which is funded by the German government and manages the prize, said last Friday it would postpone Shibli’s award due to the uncertain situation in the wake of the Hamas raid. On Tuesday, it said it had decided to hold the award ceremony at a different time in a “less politically charged atmosphere”.

The fair itself said separately it wanted to foreground Israeli and Jewish voices in the aftermath of the Hamas raid.

“Frankfurt Book Fair stands with complete solidarity on the side of Israel,” the book fair posted on Instagram on Saturday, citing the fair’s director, Juergen Boos, who is also the president of Litprom. He said: “The war against Israel, the resulting suffering and the travel restrictions have had an impact on our programme.”

Published in Dawn, October 18th, 2023

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