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Boualem Sansal to Receive the 2011 Peace Prize

The Board of Trustees of the Peace Prize of the German Publishers and Booksellers Association has chosen Algerian author Boualem Sansal to be the recipient of this year’s Peace Prize. The announcement was made by Dr. Gottfried Honne-felder, chairman of the German Publishers and Booksellers Association, at the start of the 2011 Buchtage Berlin (Berlin Book Days). Honnefelder noted: “Our choice this year is intended as a signal of encouragement for democracy move-ments in North Africa.” The award ceremony will take place during the Frankfurt Book Fair on Sunday, October 16, 2011 in the Church of St. Paul in Frankfurt, Germany and be broadcast live on the German public TV channel ZDF. The Peace Prize has been awarded since 1950 and is endowed with a sum of €25,000.

Boualem Sansal
© C. Hélie Gallimard

The Board of Trustees issued the following statement with regard to their choice: “The German Publishers and Booksellers Association awards the 2011 Peace Prize of the German Book Trade to Boualem Sansal. In doing so, the association and its members have chosen to honor an Algerian author and passionate story-teller who has consistently encouraged intercultural dialogue in a spirited and compassionate manner as well as in an atmosphere of respect and mutual under-standing. Boualem Sansal is one of the few remaining intellectuals in Algeria who continue to voice criticism of political and social conditions in that country. With his unrelenting plea for the kind of free speech and public dialogue that are hall-marks of a democratic society, he labors against all forms of doctrinarian blind-ness, terror and political arbitrariness. His critical view is, however, directed not only at his homeland, but also at the entire contemporary world.” 

Boualem Sansal was born on October 15, 1949 in the small mountain village of Teniet el-Had and grew up in the working-class district of Belcourt in Algiers. In 1986, after receiving his doctorate in Industrial Economics, he became the gen-eral director of a consulting firm. In 1992, he was appointed an advisor to the Ministry of Trade and, in 1996, he was promoted to a position as a general direc-tor in the Ministry of Industry and Restructuring.

In 1996 – after the 1992 assassination of Algerian President Mohamed Boudiaf and against the backdrop of a nation shaken by civil war – Sansal began writing his first novel “Le serment des barbares” (The Barbarians’ Sermon), which was published in 1999 by the French publishing house Gallimard. The novel’s open criticism of the political situation in Algeria prompted Sansal’s publisher to advise him to publish it under a pseudonym, but Sansal opted not to do so. When the novel was published in Algeria, Sansal was forced to go on leave from his minis-terial position. 

In 2003, after two other novels, Sansal published his “Journal intime et politique, Algérie 40 ans après” (An Intimate and Political Journal: Algeria 40 Years Later), which was written with four other Algerian writers as a political diary about the situation in Algeria 40 years after independence. After his critical statements regarding Algerian President Abd al-Aziz Bouteflika, Sansal was discharged en-tirely from his government position. In 2006, Sansal published an open letter to his fellow citizens. Under the title “Poste restante: Algier: Lettre de colère et d’espoir à mes compatriots” (Poste Restante: Algiers: A Letter of Anger and Hope to my Compatriots), he went beyond the Algerian context to call for a true democ-racy in which the vision of an enlightened world population could take shape. After this letter was published, all of Sansal’s works were banned in Algeria. Despite all the political pressure he has faced, however, he has chosen to remain in his home country. Sansal’s most recent novel, “Le village de l’Allemand ou le journal des frères Schiller” (The German Mujahid, 2008), has received many prizes and been translated into several languages, including German, Dutch, Italian and English.

In addition to the Peace Prize of the German Book Trade (2011), Sansal has recei-ved a number of prestigious awards for his writings, including the Médaille d’honneur de la LICRA, la ligue internationale contre le racisme et l’antisémitisme (2009), the Prix Edouard Glissant (2009), the Prix Louis-Guilloux (2008), the Grand Prix du roman de la Société des gens de lettres (2008), the Grand Prix RTL-Lire (2008), the Grand Prix de la Francophonie de l’Académie Royale de Belgique (2008), the Prix Michel Dard (2001), the Prix Tropiques (1999) and the Prix du Premier Roman (1999).
Today, Sansal lives in the coastal town of Bourmerdès, near Algiers. He has two daughters from his first marriage, with a Czech woman. He has been married to his second wife, an Algerian, since 1986.