By Olivia Snaije
This year’s coveted German Book Trade Peace Prize will go to Algerian writer Boualem Sansal during a ceremony on Sunday October 16 at St. Paul’s church in Frankfurt. He is the third Francophone writer to receive the prize after Assia Djebar and Jorge Semprun.
The prize, worth €25,000, was awarded to Sansal for his storytelling that inspires “intercultural dialogue” and an “unrelenting plea for free speech.”
Sansal, who once worked for the Algerian government in high-ranking positions, has been openly critical of the political regime in his books, beginning with his first, Le Serment des Barbares published by Gallimard in 1999.
Although he has been banned in Algeria since 2006 after the publication of “Poste Restante Alger,” an essay in the form of a letter to his compatriots calling for true democracy, Sansal has chosen to stay in Algeria. In an interview with the French magazine l’Express last summer, Sansal said that public attention such as the Peace Prize “protects” him. He added that every morning he thinks about emigrating but that in the end, “it’s up to those in power to leave . . .”
Sansal’s latest book entitled Rue Darwin is his 6th novel published by Gallimard and spans half a century of Algerian history. Only one of his novels has been translated into English, An Unfinished Business published by Bloomsbury in the UK, and entitled The German Mujahid in the US, published by Europa Editions. The book is based on the true story of a German Nazi who hid in Algeria after World War II and fought with the Algerian forces against the French for independence.