Auma Obama To Give the German Book Trade Peace Prize Lecture

In News by Porter Anderson

The sociologist and activist Auma Obama gives the October address as Tsitsi Dangarembga wins the German Book Trade Peace Prize.

Auma Obama. Image: Elle Pouchet, provided by the Börsenverein des Deutschen Buchhandels

By Porter Anderson, Editor-in-Chief | @Porter_Anderson

Ceremony in Frankfurt: October 24
As Publishing Perspectives readers will recall from our June announcement, the 2021 laureate of the Peace Prize of the German Book Trade is Zimbabwean author and filmmaker Tsitsi Dangarembga.

Today (August 30),  the board of the Börsenverein des Deutschen Buchhandels, Germany’s publishers and booksellers association, has announced that the award ceremony address on October 24 on Frankfurter Buchmesse‘s closing evening, in Paulskirche (the Church of St. Paul) in Frankfurt will be given by Auma Obama.

The Nairobi-born Obama is a Kenyan-British is a sociologist, activist, journalist, and author, and is known for her work as the executive chair of the nonprofit Sauti Kuu Foundation (the Strong Voices Foundation) for struggling youth. She is the daughter of Barack Obama’s father and his first wife Kezia Aoko, thus the older half-sister of the former United States president.

A graduate of Heidelberg University, she took a doctorate of philosophy at the University of Bayreuth and engaged in special studies at the German Film and Television Academy in Berlin and became a British citizen in 2011.

She is the author of the memoir And Then Life Happens (Macmillan/St. Martin’s Press, 2013), which is translated to English by Ross Benjamin. She’s said by organizers a the Börsenverein to have been friends with Dangarembga for many years, and has been a member of the World Future Council since 2014. Auma Obama has been awarded several prizes for her social and humanitarian commitment, especially for economic, ecological, and social sustainability, including the Walter Scheel Prize and the Hans Rosenthal Prize of Honor in 2019.

As Publishing Perspectives readers know, the prestigious Peace Prize has been awarded since 1950 and is endowed with a purse of €25,000 (US$29,501). The honor’s key criterion is “an important contribution to peace, humanity, and understanding among peoples.”

The event on the 24th of October may have a restricted live audience capacity, according to what Germany’s coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic mitigation regulations are at the time.

Dangarembga Selected for the Future Library

It was announced on Thursday (August 26) that Dangarembga is the eighth writer named to Katie Paterson‘s Future Library project, based in the planting of 1,000 Norwegian spruce trees near Oslo.

Termed an organic artwork, the project is designed by Scotland’s Paterson to add a writer each year who will create a new piece for the project. Those works won’t be read until 100 of the trees are cut down to make paper on which to print the works–in 2114.

Tsitsi Dangarembga

And Dangarembga is in august company. Prior to her newly announced selection, Paterson has invited seven Future Library authors:

  • Margaret Atwood
  • David Mitchell
  • Sjón
  • Elif Shafak
  • Han Kang
  • Karl Ove Knausgård
  • Ocean Vuong

Dangarembga, in comments last week to Alison Flood at The Guardian, said she’s comfortable with the Future Library’s format that means no one will see the work she writes for it for almost a century. She’s accustomed to writing “without a lot of feedback,” she said, despite the 2020 Booker Prize for Fiction shortlisting of This Mournable Body (Faber & Faber, 2020).

“A lot of my life has been writing into the void,” she told Flood. “So I’m used to writing into the void.”

Her first novel, Nervous Conditions (Faber & Faber paperback 2021), was published in 1988, and her story for Louise Riber’s screenplay in the film Neria, directed by Godwin Mawuru for a 1991 release, is considered by many to be a classic.

Notes from the Börsenverein tell us that This Mournable Body is to be published in German in September. That edition is being published under the title Überleben (Survival) by Orlanda Verlag, in a translation from English by Anette Grube.

On June 8, Dangarembga was named the winner of the United Kingdom’s PEN Pinter Prize, for which she’s to give an address on October 11 at the British Library in London.

More from Publishing Perspectives on publishing industry awards and book prizes is here, and more from us on the German book market is here. More on Africa and its publishing markets is here.

More from us on the coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic and its impact on international book publishing is here.

About the Author

Porter Anderson

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Porter Anderson has been named International Trade Press Journalist of the Year in London Book Fair's International Excellence Awards. He is Editor-in-Chief of Publishing Perspectives. He formerly was Associate Editor for The FutureBook at London's The Bookseller. Anderson was for more than a decade a senior producer and anchor with, CNN International, and CNN USA. As an arts critic (Fellow, National Critics Institute), he was with The Village Voice, the Dallas Times Herald, and the Tampa Tribune, now the Tampa Bay Times. He co-founded The Hot Sheet, a newsletter for authors, which now is owned and operated by Jane Friedman.