The German Book Trade’s Peace Prize: Salman Rushdie

In Feature Articles by Porter Anderson

Salman Rushdie is to be honored in Frankfurt with the German book trade’s Peace Prize on October 22, for ‘his indomitable spirit.’

Salman Rushdie. Image: Börsenverein des Deutschen Buchhandels, Rachel Eliza Griffiths

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

Rushdie: ‘How Significant This Prize Is’
The board of the Peace Prize of the German Book Trade has announced today (June 19) that Salman Rushdie is the winner of this year’s honor, “for his indomitable spirit, for his affirmation of life, and for enriching our world with his love of storytelling.”

Rushdie on today’s date in 1947 in Bombay, as Mumbai then was known, has responded to the news of this latest award for him, saying, “I am deeply honored by, and grateful for this very important award. I can only thank the jury for its generosity.

“I know how significant this prize is, and I’m a little overawed by the list of previous recipients, to whom my name will now be added. I’m truly delighted.”

As is this award’s tradition, the honor will be conferred in a ceremony on the closing day of Frankfurter Buchmesse (October 18 to 22), at the Paulskirche, a program to be broadcast live on German public television (SDF) at 11 a.m. The award carries a purse of €25,000 (US$27,302).

In May, at the time of Rushdie’s investiture as a British Companion of Honor, the BBC’s Emma Petrie reported that Rushdie had been speaking of writing “a fairly short book about what happened” when, on August 12 he was attacked and severely wounded while onstage at the Chautauqua Institution in upstate New York. That incident would be followed on February 7 by the publication of his book Victory City (Penguin Random House).

Deutsche Welle‘s Elizabeth Grenier has made the point that, of course, that August attack was only one of many threats to his life, beginning with the February 14, 1989, fatwā. By 1998, the former Iranian president Mohammad Khatami announced that the order was “finished,” but it reportedly has never been technically concluded, and more money was added to its bounty in 2016.

Schmidt-Friderichs: ‘Deep Humanity’

In announcing Rushdie the recipient of this year’s prize, Karin Schmidt-Friderichs, who heads the Börsenverein des Deutschen Buchhandels, Germany’s publishers and booksellers association, is quoted, saying, “From the moment his masterpiece Midnight’s Children (Penguin Random House) was published in 1981, Salman Rushdie has awed us with his interpretations of migration and global politics.

Karin Schmidt-Friderichs

“In his novels and nonfiction, he melds narrative foresight with unfailing literary innovation, humor and wisdom. His work chronicles the force used by oppressive regimes to destroy entire societies while also celebrating the indestructible spirit of resistance displayed by individual human beings.

“Ever since Iran’s Ayatollah Khomeini issued a fatwā against Salman Rushdie in 1989, the author has lived under serious and constant threat to his life. And yet he remains a passionate defender of freedom of thought and expression–just as equally for himself as for those whose views he does not share. He thus accepts great personal risk in his enduring defense of an essential prerequisite for peaceful human co-existence.

“In August 2022, shortly before the publication of his most recent novel, Victory City, a violent attempt was made on his life. Today, despite still wrestling with massive physical and psychological consequences, he continues to write with great imagination and deep humanity. We honor Salman Rushdie for his indomitable spirit, for his affirmation of life and for enriching our world with his love of storytelling.”

As Publishing Perspectives will remember, a first chance for many to hear from Rushdie came in May when the British Book Awards honored him with its Freedom to Publish award and he appeared from New York in a video acceptance of that accolade on May 15, through an arrangement accomplished by The Bookseller editor Philip Jones. Days later, Rushdie would appear onstage at to accept PEN America‘s Centenary Courage Award in New York.

The board of the Peace Prize of the German Book Trade comprises Klaus Brinkbäumer, Raphael Gross PhD, Moritz Helmstaedter PhD, Nadja Kneissler PhD, Ethel Matala de Mazza PhD, Bascha Mika, Mithu Sanyal PhD, Christiane Schulz-Rother, and Schmidt-Friderichs.

Rushdie has confirmed in a brief interview with Börsenblatt that he’s working on an account of the August attack, and he says, “I have no problem with the private practice of religion. I think we should all have a problem with the politicized versions of religion that are a feature of the present—versions that use faith … as a weapon.”


More from Publishing Perspectives on Salman Rushdie is here, more on the freedom of expression and freedom to publish is here, more on book and publishing awards in the international industry is here, more on the Peace Prize of the German Book Trade is here, and more on the German market 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.