Frankfurt Book Fair

Zhadan received the 2022 Peace Prize of the German Book Trade


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Serhiy Zhadan has become this year’s laureate of the 2022 Peace Prize of the German Book Trade (Friedenspreis des Deutschen Buchhandels). This was announced at the live stream of the award ceremony.

“Little did we know that on February 24, 2022, the world would change irreversibly. Peace. On that day in February, this word took on a different weight. The sound of the word changed. There is now a war going on. A war in Europe. A brutal, ruthless war of aggression that violates international law and forces us to confront fundamental questions.Thousands of human beings have since been killed in Ukraine. Soldiers. But also civilians. Women. Children,” said Karin Schmidt-Friderichs, the Head German Publishers and Booksellers Association. 


Ina Hartwig, the Head of Department for Culture and Science of the city of Frankfurt am Main, has told about the new Zhadan’s book Himmel über Charkiw: Nachrichten vom Überleben im Krieg (The Sky over Kharkiv: Updates on War), that is going to be published in German. The book consists of the writer’s social media posts that he’s been writing ever since the beginning of the full-scale invasion.


“In the book we can read about the victims of bombings and shelling and the horrific brutality of the war. But we also can read about hope and conviction, delusion normality in the apocalyptic situation. We can see many people Zhadan meets along his way through the city. And there’s confidence about the culture,” she said. 


“How can one talk about war? How can one manage all the desperation, fury, and rancor in one’s tone, as well as all the energy and eagerness to stick by your fellows, not to retreat? I think we aren’t the only ones struggling to convey what matters most. The world listening to us isn’t always capable of understanding one simple thing – when we speak, the degrees of our linguistic tension, linguistic sincerity, and linguistic emotionality differ too drastically. Ukrainians shouldn’t justify their emotions, but unpacking these emotions is worthwhile. What for? So as not to keep all this pain and all this anger bottled up, at the very least. We can articulate it; we can vocalize everything that has and will happen to us. We simply have to be ready for the fact that this won’t be an easy conversation. Nevertheless, we have to begin it today,” the writer pointed out in his acceptance speech.

“We honour this Ukrainian author and musician for his outstanding artistic work as well as for his unequivocal humanitarian stance, which repeatedly motivates him to risk his own life to help people affected by war and thus to call greater attention to their plight,” stated at the website of the German Publishers and Booksellers Association.


“His stories illustrate how war and destruction enter into this world and turn people’s lives upside down. Throughout his entire oeuvre, he uses a unique language that provides us with a vivid and differentiated portrait of the reality that many of us chose to disregard for far too long. Thoughtfully and with the precision of a true listener, in a poetic and radical tone, Serhiy Zhadan reveals how the people of Ukraine defy the violence around them, striving instead to lead independent lives rooted in peace and freedom,” stressed the jury of the prize. 


The award ceremony was organized by the German Association of Publishers and booksellers (Börsenverein des Deutschen Buchhandels).


Friedenpreis is an international peace prize awarded annually by the German Publishers and Booksellers Association, which runs the Frankfurt Book Fair. The prize has been awarded since 1950. The recipient is remunerated with €25,000. Due to the debates and discussions caused by the prize and its laudators, it has become one of the most significant cultural awards in Germany. In different years the prize was awarded to Martin Buber, Hermann Hesse, Karl Jaspers, Janusz Korczak, Leszek Kolakowski, Astrid Lindgren, Susan Sontag, Orhan Pamuk, Margaret Atwood.


As been reported before Zhadan has received the Polish Prize of Sérgio Vieira de Mello. And earlier this year he also won the Hannah Arendt Prize for Political Thought 2022.


Photos: ARD, Victoria Feshchuk