Salman Rushdie to receive the 2023 Peace Prize of the German Book Trade

© Rachel Eliza Griffiths

The Board of Trustees, of which Börsenverein chairwoman Karin Schmidt-Friderichs is president, issued the following statement with regard to their choice:

“From the moment his masterpiece Midnight’s Children was published in 1981, Salman Rushdie has awed us with his interpretations of migration and global politics. In his novels and non-fiction, he melds narrative foresight with unfailing literary innovation, humour 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 fatwa 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 defence 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 honour Salman Rushdie for his indomitable spirit, for his affirmation of life and for enriching our world with his love of storytelling”.

Salman Rushdie, who is celebrating his 76th birthday on today’s announcement day, made the following statement in response to the jury’s decision: “I am deeply honoured 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”.

Sir Salman Ahmed Rushdie was born 19 June 1947 in Bombay (now Mumbai), India, and is one of the most important writers in contemporary English literature. His novels are known for combining magical realism with historical fiction and have been translated into over 40 languages. Often set on the Indian subcontinent, Rushdie’s writing frequently explores the connections, migrations and ruptures between Eastern and Western civilisations. In addition to novels, Rushdie is also the author of short stories, travel literature, essays and journalistic pieces. His depiction of the Prophet Mohammed in his fourth novel, The Satanic Verses, prompted Ruhollah Khomeini, then Supreme Leader of Iran, to issue a fatwa in 1989 calling for the writer’s execution. From that moment on, Rushdie and his professional associates were the subject of numerous death threats and assassination attempts by extremists. The author had no choice but to live in hiding and under police protection for several years. To this day, Rushdie remains a highly effective contributor to debates on censorship, freedom of expression and religiously motivated violence. In his work, he continues to advocate for the peaceful co-existence of cultures.

From 2004 to 2006, Rushdie was president of the PEN American Center and after that acted as chairman of the PEN World Voices International Literary Festival for ten years. Rushdie has been honoured with numerous prizes and awards for his literary oeuvre and commitment to social causes. In 2007, he was conferred the rank of Knight Bachelor by Queen Elizabeth II.

On 12 August 2022, shortly after completing his latest novel, Victory City, Rushdie was stabbed and critically injured by an attacker at an event in New York State. Rushdie survived the attack but lost an eye and suffered permanent damage to the hand he uses to write. In light of the attack on his life, the publication of Victory City in early 2023 – a novel in which the author explores themes of love and the abuse of power and recounts the rise and fall of a wondrous matriarchal utopia – took on an uncanny, oppressive dimension that points directly to our present-day reality. In June 2023, Rushdie announced that he intends to write a book about the attempt on his life.


The Board of Trustees of the Peace Prize is made up of Klaus Brinkbäumer, Prof. Dr. Raphael Gross, Prof. Dr. Moritz Helmstaedter, Dr. Nadja Kneissler, Prof. Dr. Ethel Matala de Mazza, Prof. Bascha Mika, Dr. Mithu Sanyal, Christiane Schulz-Rother and Karin Schmidt-Friderichs.

The award ceremony will take place on Sunday 22 October 2023 in the Church of St. Paul in Frankfurt am Main. The event will be broadcast live on German public television (ZDF) at 11 am. The Peace Prize has been awarded since 1950 and is endowed with a sum of €25,000.

Interview with Salman Rushdie with regard to the announcement: