The Board of Trustees of the Peace Prize of the German Book Trade has chosen Navid Kermani, the German author, essayist and expert in Middle Eastern Studies, as the recipient of this year's Peace Prize. The announcement was made by Heinrich Riethmüller, Chairman of the German Publishers and Booksellers Association, at the 2015 Berlin Book Days. The award ceremony will take place during the Frankfurt Book Fair on Sunday, October 18, 2015, in the Church of St. Paul in Frankfurt am Main, Germany. The ceremony will be broadcast live on Germany's public TV channel ZDF. The Peace Prize has been awarded since 1950 and is endowed with a sum of €25,000.
The Board of Trustees issued the following statement with regard to its selection: "The German Publishers and Booksellers Association is delighted to award the 2015 Peace Prize to Navid Kermani. As an author, essayist and expert in Middle Eastern Studies, Kermani is one of our society's most important voices. Indeed, if our society is to establish and cultivate peaceful coexistence based on dignity and human rights, then today, more than ever, it must rise to the challenge posed by the experiential worlds of individuals from the widest possible national and religious backgrounds. Kermani's academic work, in which he explores questions of mysticism, aesthetics and theodicy in particular in the Islamic world, have marked him as an author who uses his tremendous knowledge to engage in gripping theological and social discourses. His novels, essays and especially his reportages from war-torn areas, show the extent to which he is committed to the dignity of all individuals, but also to garnering respect for all cultures and religions and to fostering an open European society that provides shelter for refugees and space for all humanity."
Navid Kermani was born on November 27, 1967 in Siegen. At university, he studied Islamic Studies, Philosophy and Theatre. His 1999 dissertation – published in English in 2014 as “God is Beautiful. The Aesthetic Experience of the Quran”– garnered him much attention in the Feuilleton sections of German newspapers and special-interest press. In addition to his work as a dramaturge at the Theater an der Ruhr in Mühlheim (1994/95) and at the Schauspielhaus Frankfurt (1998/99), he also wrote regular literary criticism and reportages. In 1994, he founded the first international cultural centre in Isfahan, which was forced to close in 1997 due to strains in German-Iranian relations.
After completing a research fellowship at the Institute for Advanced Study in Berlin, and after the publication of "Das Buch der von Neil Young Getöteten" ("The Book of Those Killed by Neil Young") (2002) and "Schöner neuer Orient. Berichte von Städten und Kriegen" ("Beautiful New Orient. Reports from Cities and Wars") (2003), Kermani decided to devote himself entirely to writing. In 2005, however, he nevertheless went on achieve the German academic Habilitation in the field of "Oriental Studies" with an in-depth study, later published in English as “Terror of God. Attar, Job and the Metaphysical Revolt” (2011).In 2010, Kermani gave the prominent Frankfurter Poetikvorlesungen (Frankfurt Poetics Reading), and one year later his novel "Dein Name" ("Your Name") was published and awarded the Joseph Breitbach Prize (2014). In 2014, in a much lauded speech in front of the German Bundestag on the occasion of the 65th anniversary of the Grundgesetz (Germany's Basic Law), Kermani analysed the normative power of the document and simultaneously criticized Germany's asylum laws.
Kermani's literary works, which were published by Ammann Verlag and, since 2011, by Carl Hanser, thematise the fundamental questions and "border experiences" of human existence, including love and sexuality, ecstasy and death, most recently in his "Große Liebe" ("Big Love") (2014). The focuses of his scientific work published by C.H. Beck – for example "Zwischen Koran und Kafka. West-östliche Erkundigungen" ("Between Quran and Kafka. West-East Inquiries") (2014) – are the Quran and Islamic mysticism. He has also written numerous reportages from war-torn zones, which were published in "Ausnahmezustand. Reisen in eine beunruhigte Welt" ("State of Emergency. Travels to a Troubled World") (2013).
Navid Kermani has received a number of awards for his work and social engagement, including the Hessian Cultural Prize (2009), the Hannah Arendt Prize (2011), the Buber-Rosenzweig Medal (2011), the Cologne Cultural Prize (2012), the Cicero Speakers Prize (2012), Heinrich-von-Kleist Prize (2012) and the Gerty-Spies Literary Prize (2014).
Navid Kermani has lived in Cologne since 1988. He is married to Katajun Amirpur, a Professor of Islamic Studies at the University of Hamburg. The couple has two daughters.
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