The Board of Trustees of the Peace Prize of the German Book Trade has chosen Israeli author David Grossman to be the recipient of this years Peace Prize. The award ceremony has taken place during the Frankfurt Book Fair on Sunday, October 10, 2010 in the Church of St. Paul in Frankfurt, Germany. The laudatory speech was given by Joachim Gauck.
Reason of the jury
“The German Publishers and Booksellers Association awards the 2010 Peace Prize of the German Book Trade to David Grossman. In so doing, the association and its members have chosen to honor one of Israel’s foremost authors and an active supporter of reconciliation between Israelis and Palestinians.
In his novels, essays and stories, Grossman has consistently sought to understand and describe not only his own position, but also the opinions of those who think differently. David Grossman gives a literary voice – one that is heard throughout the world – to this difficult co-existence. His books illustrate the extent to which we can only end the cycle of violence, hatred and displacement in the Middle East by means of listening, restraint and the power of words.
In his major work “To the End of the Land,” Grossman shows the importance of language in the search for identity and warns of its increasing militarization. Faced with a reality characterized by arbitrariness, coercion and alienation, David Grossman offers us ways out of a society caught between war and peace.”
David Grossman was born in 1954 in Jerusalem and is one of Israel’s most influential writers and journalists. In his novels, stories, essays and children’s books – many of which have been translated into more than thirty languages and received numerous awards – Grossman deals first and foremost with his country’s identity and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. He is also an active participant in the political debate that seeks to find a peaceful solution to the conflict in the Middle East.
After completing his military service in 1975, Grossman began studying philosophy and theater at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. During this time, he also worked as a news editor and radio drama author and actor for Israeli public radio. Grossman was writing short stories even before graduating from university in 1979, and in 1983 he published his first novel “The Smile of the Lamb” (Engl. 1990). This story, which centers on three Israelis and an elderly Arab against the backdrop of the occupied territories, received much critical praise for its directness and intensity. In his 1986 novel “See Under: Love” (Engl. 1989), which deals with the second generation following that of the Shoah survivors, Grossman employs grotesque, fairy-tale-like and fantastical means in an attempt to describe the indescribable. This work enlivened the debate on whether or not the Shoah could be dealt with by literary means. The novel, along with the publication in 1987 of a collection of observations entitled “The Yellow Wind” (Engl. 1988), which deals with relations between Israelis and Arabs, gave Grossman worldwide exposure.
In 1988, after refusing to succumb to censorship regarding Yasser Arafat's announcement of Palestinian independence - in which Arafat also spoke indirectly for the first time of Israel's right to exist - Grossman was promptly fired. From then on, he concentrated on writing fiction and went on to publish a number of novels, including “The Book of Intimate Grammar” (1991, Engl. 1994) and “Be My Knife” (1998, Engl. 2002), in which he described the complexity of life in the world today, as well as youth and children's stories, including “The Zig-Zag Kid” (1994, Engl. 1997) and various stories featuring a character named Joram (1990, 1991 and 1992). In his political essays on the situation of Arabs living in Israel, which he published as “Sleeping on a Wire: Conversations with Palestinians in Israel” (1992, Engl. 1993), Grossman dealt in depth with the problems of co-existence. As an early supporter of the Geneva Initiative, he also increasingly used his political commentary to call for reconciliation between Israelis and Palestinians. In the essay collection “Death as a Way of Life: Israel Ten Years after Oslo” (2003, Engl. 2003), Grossman documented his growing disappointment with the lack of progress in solving the conflict between Israelis and Palestinians.
Grossman’s desire to understand and describe the position of those who think differently is a driving factor behind his political activity and influences the themes of his literary work. In the youth novel “Someone to Run With” (2000, Engl. 2004) about a boy who embarks on a journey through Jerusalem with a lost dog to find its owner, and “Lion’s Honey” (2005, Engl. 2006), which explores the biblical story of Samson, Grossman makes obvious reference to the situation in which Israeli society finds itself. When the Israeli-Lebanon conflict broke out in 2006, David Grossman and fellow authors Amos Oz, Abraham B. Jehoshua and others, called for a ceasefire between the two countries. Only days later, his son Uri was killed by a Hezbollah missile. He worked through this painful experience in “To the End of the Land” (2008, Engl. 2010), an epic novel that tells of a woman’s desperate attempt to protect herself and her family life from a hard and violent reality. In this work, Grossman intertwines the woman’s journey through Israel with her memories and political events. He also shows in a striking manner the extent to which the fate of people in Israel is unequivocally tied to politics and war.
Even after the death of his son, Grossman continued to call for a peaceful solution to the Middle East conflict. In November 2006, at his first public appearance, he appealed – in front of a crowd of 100,000 people – to political figures to accept each and every peace overture from Arab leaders, however small the gesture might be. When Hamas began launching rockets at Israeli cities from the Gaza Strip in December 2008, he called for restraint from his own country: “We have a duty to protect the civilian population, precisely because Israel is much stronger than Hamas. We absolutely must beware of the maelstrom of violence that has engulfed us too often in the past.”
In addition to his political writings and novels, the most important part of Grossman’s literary oeuvre remains his many books and stories for and about children. In these works, he depicts the family as a human drama so as to better describe the relationships between parents and their children. In 2009, his opera for children entitled “Itamar Meets a Rabbit” had its premiere with the Israeli Philharmonic Orchestra. Israeli composer Yoni Rechter composed the music for the opera.
Grossman has received a number of prestigious awards for his literary work and political activism, including the Harry Herschon Prize (Israel, 1980), the Prime Minister’s Prize for Literature Work (Israel, 1984), the Nelly Sachs Prize (1991), the Premio Mondello (Italy, 1996), the Premio Grinzane Cavour (Italy, 1997), the Sapir Prize (Israel, 2001), the Manès Sperber Prize (2002), the Bialik Prize (Israel, 2004), the Emet Prize (Israel, 2007), the Geschwister Scholl Prize (2008) and the Albatros Prize (2010).
Grossman is the son of Yitzhak Grossman, a bus driver who immigrated to Israel from Poland in 1933, and his wife Michaela. He is married to the psychologist Michal Grossman. They have three children, Jonathan, Ruth und Uri, and live in Mevaseret Zion, a suburb of Jerusalem.
Joachim Gauck was born on 24 January 1940 in Rostock, where he also studied theology. As pastor he worked for the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Mecklenburg and organised the Church Congress in Rostock in 1988. Gauck was the co-founder and spokesman of the democratic opposition movement “Neues Forum”. From 1989 on he frequently held church services and organised peaceful mass demonstrations against the communist dictatorship in the former German Democratic Republic (GDR).
In 1990, during the GDR’s first free elections, Joachim Gauck was elected to the People’s Chamber, where he represented the Alliance 90 party. In the course of the German Reunification in 1990, Gauck became the Federal Commissioner Preserving the Records of the State Security Service of the former GDR. He served in this position for two periods of office, until 2000.
Since then, Joachim Gauck has been working as a journalist and has considerably contributed to the debate of freedom and democracy in Germany. Since 2003 he has been chairman of the 1993 founded association “Gegen Vergessen – Für Demokratie”, that reappraises National Socialism and the history of the former GDR and fights against political extremism and racism. In 2010, Joachim Gauck was nominated by the Social Democratic Party of Germany and The Greens as a candidate in the presidential election.
Joachim Gauck received many honours and awards for his political commitment and his work as journalist. His memoirs „Winter im Sommer, Frühling im Herbst“ were published in autumn 2009.
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