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Regret and respect: reactions to Jürgen Habermas' rejection of the Sheikh Zayed Book Award

2021-05-03T21:11:05.971Z

To accept the book award from Abu Dhabi, endowed with 225,000 euros, was a »wrong decision«, according to Jürgen Habermas. The initiators regret the cancellation, the head of the Frankfurt Book Fair sees a missed opportunity.



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Philosopher Habermas: Decision is "respected"

Photo: stock & people / GlobalImagens / imago images

The initiators of a highly endowed book award from Abu Dhabi regretted the decision of the German philosopher Jürgen Habermas not to accept the award.

Habermas' decision will be respected, said the initiators of the Sheikh Zayed Book Awards on Monday in Abu Dhabi.

The award embodies »the values ​​of tolerance, knowledge and creativity«, builds »bridges between cultures« and will continue to fulfill this task.

The 91-year-old Habermas reversed his decision on Sunday to accept the award as “Cultural Personality of the Year 2021”, which is worth the equivalent of around 225,000 euros.

In a statement, Habermas wrote that he was not aware of the initiators' links with the government in Abu Dhabi.

Habermas first informed SPIEGEL that he had "found out about the institution and the award winners" in advance of accepting the award, including from Jürgen Boos, the director of the Frankfurt Book Fair.

Boos is also a member of the Prize's Scientific Advisory Board.

"I was appointed to the advisory board shortly after it was founded in order to bring in an international publishing perspective," said Boos on Monday in response to a request from SPIEGEL.

"A country on the move, with a long way to go"

He had "learned a lot about Arab culture and society during this time and found the intensive exchange with the other members of the advisory board to be fruitful and open," said Boos. This rapprochement and the growing mutual understanding are the reason why he has agreed to participate in the advisory board. Jürgen Boos did not want to comment on the "obvious concerns" (Habermas) he initially "dispelled", referring to the confidentiality of the talks.

After the publication of a SPIEGEL article on the subject, Jürgen Habermas had the Suhrkamp Verlag announced on Sunday that the acceptance of the award was a "wrong decision" that he is "hereby correcting".

The philosopher added that he had not sufficiently understood "the very close connection between the institution that awards these prizes in Abu Dhabi and the existing political system".

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Book fair director Boos: "The prize would have been an occasion to encourage discussion of Habermas' work in the Arab world."

Photo: focal distanceffm / imago images

Book fair director Boos sees Abu Dhabi as “a country on the move that still has a long way to go”.

Of course, one discusses the political situation: "But we can represent democratic values ​​better if we show our presence than if we let the distance increase."

Between 2007 and 2012 there was a joint venture between the Frankfurt Book Fair and the emirate's cultural authority, which also organized the Abu Dhabi International Book Fair.

Even after the joint venture was dissolved, Boos emphasized the “good contacts”.

Publishers from the Arab world are important licensing partners for German publishers, Boos told SPIEGEL, "and we are delighted with the continuing interest in German titles and authors."

Numerous works translated into Arabic

In 2021, Germany will be the host country of the international book fair;

an honor which Russia, India, Poland, China and Italy had received in recent years.

According to Boos, the fact that a German thinker should have been honored with the prize awarded at the trade fair for the host country year is a »coincidence«.

The Sheikh Zayed Book Award, named after the founding father of the United Arab Emirates, Sheikh Sajed bin Sultan al-Nahjan, honors important personalities with gold medals and cash prizes worth around 1.5 million euros every year.

Jürgen Habermas was declared "Cultural Personality of the Year" on Friday, "in recognition of a long career that spanned more than half a century".

"Of course I accept Mr. Habermas' decision," writes Jürgen Boos, but it is still a regret to hear it out.

The award of this prize to him "would have been an occasion to make his important work and his positions in the Arab cultural area even better known and thus to promote the examination of his work in Arab society." Many of his works have already been translated into Arabic, Students and researchers refer to his philosophy and deal with his work.

feb / AFP

Source: spiegel

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