Arab ‘Literary’ Awards: Good Writer in April in Paris, Bad Writer in June……….


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                       Neck of the woods
“A celebrated Algerian novelist was given a top French literary prize on Thursday in a ceremony that was marred by the withdrawal of its Arab sponsors. Boualem Sansal had been due to receive the Editions Gallimard Arabic Novel prize for his book “Rue Darwin” [Darwin Street] earlier in June. The 15,000 euro prize was to be given by the Paris-based Arab Ambassador’s Council, which founded the award in 2008. But between being nominated and being awarded his prize, Sansal attended the Jerusalem Writers Festival in May – as guest of honour. Militant Palestinian Islamist group Hamas called it, “an act of treason against the Palestinian people.” By the time the writer was due to receive his award, the Ambassadors Council had permanently withdrawn its support for the award………… Speaking on France Inter radio on Friday, Sansal said it was “completely unacceptable” that the ambassadors should interfere with their own jury’s decision ………..”

This is a strange case, not an easy one, involving politics and literary merit. If his book was good and deserved the prize in April, what has changed in the book to make it undeserving in June? Did he revise the book to make it less deserving during that period? Regardless of what you think of his visit to Jerusalem. Perceptions of the man’s work changed in some ways because of his visit, but the criteria for the award would be the same.
Now he won’t have the 15,000 euro to spend in Paris. That is a shame, a big fat dommage: I can think of no better place to spend 15,000 euro than Paris (the one in France not the one in Texas, assuming this guy is not into giving to charities).
All they did was to make his novel better known: I shall order a copy for my iPad or Kindle this afternoon.