June 9, 2011

ALGERIA: Author Boualem Sansal to get top German Award

BONN, Germany / Deutsche-Welle / Literature / June 9, 2011

Boualem Sansal took up Holocaust themes in his most famous novel
© dpa - Bildfunk


His books have cost him his job and landed him on the index of banned authors at home in Algeria, but Boualem Sansal remains a resident and activist there. His efforts earned him the 2011 German Book Trade Peace Prize.

Selection of Algerian author Boualem Sansal "is a symbol of support for democratic movements in North Africa," said Gottfried Honnefelder, head of the German Publishers and Booksellers Association.

The author is a "passionate storyteller displaying wit and empathy," wrote the prize committee in its official statement, adding that he combines those qualities with the courage to openly criticize social and political affairs. "With his persistent pleas in favor of free expression and open dialogue in a democratic society, he opposes every form of dogmatism, terror and political arbitrariness," the committee stated.

Breaking taboos

Sansal became known to German readers by way of his 2009 novel, "Das Dorf des Deutschen," published in the US as "The German Mujahid" and in the UK as "An Unfinished Business." It tells the story of a German Nazi who goes into hiding after the war as a member of the Algerian forces fighting for independence from France.

Originally written in French, "The German Mujahid" is considered the first Arabic novel about the Holocaust - a topic that is still taboo in Algeria. The book was honored with multiple international prizes and translations but was banned in the author's home country.

Boualem Sansal was born October 15, 1949 in the Algerian mountain village of Teniet el-Had. He grew up in a working-class neighborhood in Algiers and later studied industrial economics before moving into high-ranking positions with the government.

Traditionally, the German Book Trade Peace Prize is presented in October to cap off the Frankfurt Book Fair.

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Report Author: Gabriela Schaaf / gsw
Editor: Kate Bowen

© DW 2011