Rushdie: "Peace, right now, feels like a fantasy born of a narcotic smoked in a pipe"
Erstellt am 22.10.2023
Author Salman Rushdie was awarded the Peace Prize of the German Book Trade today at a ceremony held in Frankfurt’s Church of St. Paul and attended by roughly 700 invited guests, including Claudia Roth, Federal Commissioner for Culture and the Media, Robert Habeck, Minister of Economic Affairs, Bettina Stark-Watzinger, Minister of Education and Research and Cem Özdemir, Minister of Food and Agriculture. The speech honouring this year’s prize recipient was given by German-Austrian author, screenwriter, essayist, literary critic and lecturer Daniel Kehlmann.
In his acceptance speech, Rushdie spoke of the search and longing for peace, which he argued was “a hard thing to make, and a hard thing to find”. Nevertheless, he noted, “we yearn for it, do we not, not only the great peace that comes at the end of war, but also the little peace of our private lives, to feel ourselves at peace with our lives, and with the little world around us”.
Rushdie continued: “And here we are gathered to speak of peace when war is raging not very far away, a war born of one man’s tyranny and greed for power and conquest, a sad narrative that will not be unfamiliar to a German audience; and another bitter conflict has exploded in Israel and the Gaza Strip. Peace, right now, feels like a fantasy born of a narcotic smoked in a pipe”.
Rushdie called for an unrelenting commitment to achieving peace, which, “hard as it is to find, impossible as it may feel to sustain, this thing which is so hard to define is, in spite of everything, one of our great values, a thing ardently to pursue”.
Rushdie also spoke about freedom, which – as he and others learned – “can create an equal and opposite reaction from the forces of unfreedom”. He continued: “We live in a time I did not think I would see in my life-time, a time when freedom – and in particular, freedom of expression, without which the world of books could not exist – is everywhere under attack from reactionary, authoritarian, populist, demagogic, half-educated, narcissistic, careless voices”. And, further: “What do we do about free speech when it is so widely abused? We should still do, with renewed vigour, what we have always needed to do: to answer bad speech with better speech, to counter false narratives with better narratives, to answer hate with love, and to believe that the truth can still succeed even in an age of lies. We must defend it fiercely, and define it as broadly as possible, so yes, we should of course defend speech that offends us, otherwise we are not defending free expression at all. Publishers are among the most important guardians of freedom”.
In his speech honouring the recipient, Daniel Kehlmann described Salman Rushdie as “the very opposite of a person detached from the world. […] He will always see, well before the rest of us, whatever is brewing in the froth of the world spirit, [...] and he will transform it – sometimes in obvious ways, sometimes in a manner only he understands – into art”. Kehlmann described Rushdie as “an artist, a humorist and a moulder of sentences”, a person who is without a doubt “one of the great storytellers in the history of literature and perhaps the most important defender of freedom of speech and artistic expression in our time”. But above all else, Kehlmann noted, “he is a wise, curious, cheerful and kind human being. As such, he is a most worthy recipient of this award, a peace prize that expressly acknowledges not only a person’s artistic achievement but also their exceptional humanity”.
In her own speech, Börsenverein Chairperson Karin Schmidt-Friderichs described Rushdie as a person who, “despite all he’s been through, raises his voice and stands up for the freedom of thought and the freedom of the word. A person who has given us many wise words and much food for thought. A person whose fictional narratives hold up a mirror to reality. A person from whom we can learn what courage means”.
Frankfurt Mayor Mike Josef described Rushdie as a role model who had conveyed the values embodied by the Frankfurt Parliament throughout the world: “The Peace Prize found a home in the Church of St. Paul because this site has been a refuge for democratic values since 1848. Values such as human rights, freedom of speech, freedom of the press, peace and democracy. The life and artistic output of this year’s award recipient reflect these values of peace and freedom of expression”.
The Börsenverein des Deutschen Buchhandels (German Publishers and Booksellers Association) has awarded the annual Peace Prize of the German Book Trade on the final day of the Frankfurt Book Fair since 1950. Previous award recipients include Sebastião Salgado, Albert Schweitzer, Astrid Lindgren, Václav Havel, Jürgen Habermas, Susan Sontag, Liao Yiwu, Navid Kermani, Margaret Atwood, Aleida and Jan Assmann and, last year, Serhiy Zhadan. The award is endowed with a sum of €25,000.
A press photo will be available today starting at roughly 2:30 pm at www.boersenverein.de/pressefotos.
The speeches given by Salman Rushdie and Daniel Kehlmann can be accessed online at www.friedenspreis-des-deutschen-buchhandels.de.
Starting on 20 November 2023, the book containing all of the speeches delivered at the award ceremony will be available in stores and at MVB Client Service at kundenservice (ISBN: 978-3-7657-3442-7, €19.90). @mvb-online.de
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