Lebanon’s Dar Al Jadeed Wins IPA’s 2021 Prix Voltaire

In Feature Articles by Porter Anderson

The International Publishers Association names Dar Al Jadeed, co-founded by the late Lokman Slim, the 2021 Prix Voltaire laureate, and adds a special award for China’s late Li Liqun.

The late Lokman Slim, co-founder of Dar Al Jadeed, announced as the winner of the International Publishers Association’s 2021 Prix Voltaire. Image: Lokman Slim Foundation

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

Dar Al Jadeed: ‘Ideas Do Not Close Their Doors’
This morning from its offices in Geneva, the International Publishers Association (IPA) has announced that Dar Al Jadeed publishing house and its late co-founder, Lokman Slim have been named winner of the 2021 Prix Voltaire.

As Publishing Perspectives readers know, it was announced in mid-June that this year’s Prix Voltaire winner will be formally confirmed at the 35th Guadalajara International Book Fair on November 30 during Marisol Schulz’s direction of that public-facing fair, which runs this year from Saturday (November 27) to December 5.

The award carries a purse of 10,000 Swiss francs (US$10,760). Dar Al Jadeed co-founder Rasha Al Ameer is scheduled to receive the Prix Voltaire in person at the Guadalajara fair on 30 November. The ceremony also is to include keynote commentary from Miami-based Mexican journalist, Univision anchor, and CNN International commentator Jorge Ramos.

Al Ameer, the author and publisher and sister of Slim, spoke on October 2022 as part of a session called “Publishing Arabic Books: Opportunities and Challenges,” an event originating at Frankfurter Buchmesse‘s new Frankfurt Studio.

Bodour Al Qasimi

In a prepared statement for today’s announcement, IPA president Bodour Al Qasimi is quoted, saying, “Through the Prix Voltaire, the International Publishers Association stands with individuals and organizations which share our commitment and devotion to freedom to publish as a fundamental right.

“Publishers, and our colleagues throughout the publishing value chain, need to know that they have the collective support of the entire industry behind them when they face unjust persecution and censorship.

Kristenn Einarsson

“This year’s Prix Voltaire laureate paid the ultimate price, standing up for freedom of expression as an enabler of tolerance and conflict resolution in Lebanon. His loss is a loss to the entire international publishing community.”

And Kristenn Einarsson, the longtime chair of the IPA’s Freedom to Publish committee, says, “Dar Al Jadeed has experienced first-hand the dangers that can come with a commitment to freedom of expression and the free communication of ideas.

“Their bravery is an inspiration.”

And in its text about itself and its work, Dar Al Jadeed’s staff describes the press on its site as “a free, independent and avant-garde house. Our writers are stars wherever they go. Our books do not age. The new is an idea and ideas do not close their doors.”

Dar Al Jadeed and Lokman Slim

Dar Al Jadeed was co-founded by the late anti-Hezbollah activist, publisher, and documentary filmmaker Lokman Slim and his sister, Al Ameer.

Lokman Slim

Publishing Perspectives readers will recall that early this year, Frankfurter Buchmesse and the Börsenverein des Deutschen Buchhandels, Germany’s publishers and booksellers association, issued a joint statement of shock and sadness at the news of Slim’s murder reported on February 4, writing, “The international publishing community mourns a fearless, outspoken, and committed fighter for the right to freedom of expression.”

Slim’s body was found inside his car in Southern Lebanon, the village of Addoussieh. Reports, including that of Reuters Beirut, were of Slim being shot four times in the head and once in the back.

He was, Reuters reported, 58, and Lebanese officials called the killing an assassination.

Slim had also founded Unam Productions for filmmaking with his wife Monika Borgmann, and the nonprofit Unam Documentation and Research program on the Lebanese civil wars.

Dar Al Jadeed won the 2021 Sheikh Zayed Book Award in the Publishing and Technology category, praised by the jury for cultivating “rational, mythology-free knowledge” free of “ideological considerations and partisanship.”

In an IPA Masterclass presentation at Frankfurter Buchmesse, Einarsson pointed out that Slim “had been the target of repeated threats and intimidations due to his effort to bring about greater freedom of expression, and an open dialogue.”

The Lokman Slim Foundation (his name is also transliterated Luqman Saleem and Luqman Salim) has boldly determined that “From our first day, we will focus on the issue of political assassination, as we have counted 112 political assassinations in Lebanon alone from the 1950s to the present day.”

A Special Award for China’s Li Liqun

The IPA has also announced a Prix Voltaire special award for the late Chinese author Li Liqun, whose pen name is Li Huizi.

Li was an Independent Chinese PEN Center member who took his own life on July 23.

A joint statement issued on July 28 by PEN International and the Independent Chinese PEN Center, saying, “Li’s untimely death is a tragic example of the human cost of the People’s Republic of China’s government repression of free expression throughout China.

“We call for an immediate end to the persecution of writers and intellectuals who have been wrongfully targeted for their peaceful expression.”

And on the naming of the special award, Einarsson is quoted, saying, “The IPA Freedom to Publish committee only gives a Prix Voltaire special award for cases we feel are particularly noteworthy. Li Liqun’s efforts as a writer, political commentator and public intellectual were widely respected. The committee is proud to recognize his work for freedom of expression.”

The Prix Voltaire Cash Prize

The cash prize attached to the Prix Voltaire has become a point of concern itself, in this award program that honors some of the most direly threatened members of the world publishing community.

This year’s group of sponsors for the financial award is half the size of what it has been. For some reason, Nordic publishing interests appear to be the only ones continuing to make contributions. At times there have been many more sponsors, including the Börsenverein des Deutschen Buchhandels (Germany); Holtzbrinck Publishing Group (Germany); Verlagsgruppe Random House (Germany); Bonnier Media Deutschland (Germany); Storytel (Sweden); and Gyldendal (Norway). Support also came from Les Editions du Seuil  (France); Associazione Italiana Editori (Italy); and Librius (Belgium).

But this year, the money comes only from these contributing publishers:

And there’s a parallel here with the newly formed and very promising World Expression Forum. The WEXFO, as it’s called, also enjoys an overwhelmingly Nordic response of support for its freedom-of-expression intent.

Granted, the forum is very new. But it does seem that Norway, in particular, is carrying far more of the world’s load than it should have to do in issues of repression and threats to free speech and publishing. It would be good to see world publishing step up to the mark on efforts like the Prix Voltaire with contributions to that pivotal award from across the international reach of IPA’s membership.

The 2021 Prix Voltaire Shortlist

As Publishing Perspectives readers will recall, the 2021 shortlist for the Prix Voltaire has  been especially rich in talent and commitment, particularly with its inclusion of unnamed (for security) publishing houses experiencing harassment and danger under the Belarusian regime of authoritarian strongman Alexander Lukashenko.

The complete shortlist:

  • Dar Al Jadeed, Lebanon
  • Independent publishers, Belarus
  • Mikado Publishing, Turkey
  • Samir Mansour Bookshop, Gaza
  • Raúl Figueroa Sarti, F&G Editores

As our readers know from our coverage on Wednesday (November 17), F&G Editores of Guatemala City and its publisher Raúl Figueroa Sarti have won this year’s Freedom to Publish Award from the Association of American Publishers (AAP)—a member-publishing organization of the IPA.

Raúl Figueroa Sarti is slated to speak on November 30 at Guadalajara (Seminar Hall 4, planta baja, Expo Guadalajara) in a special seminar mounted by the IPA, “The Different Shades of Censorship: From Government Pressure to Libel Threats, and Self-Censorship.”

Rasha Al Ameer

That program, running from 12 noon to 1:30 p.m. CT (18:00 to 19:30 GMT) is also expected to feature not only Ramos and Rasha Al Ameer but also:

  • Moderator Mayra González Olvera, the literary director of Penguin Random House México’s Alfaguara, Lumen, Reservoir Books, Salamandra and Taurus imprints
  • Einarsson, IPA’s Freedom to Publish committee chair
  • Nicaraguan author Sergio Ramirez
  • Penguin Random House Peru’s director general Jerónimo Pimentel

A tribute to the late Loqman Slim. Image: Lokman Slim Foundation

More from Publishing Perspectives on the International Publishers Association is here, and on the Prix Voltaire is here. More from Publishing Perspectives on the Guadalajara International Book Fair is here.

Publishing Perspectives is the world media partner of IPA programs and services.

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.com, 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.