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The Aus­tri­an Theodor Kramer Prize, reward­ing writ­ers in resis­tance or in exile, was award­ed to the Kur­dish author Mer­al Şimşek and Aus­tri­an essay­ist Ger­hard Fritz Ober­schlick, for the year 2022.

Found­ed in 1984, the Theodor Kramer Soci­ety has award­ed since 2001 “Theodor Kramer Preis für Schreiben im Wider­stand und im Exil” (Theodor Kramer Prize for writ­ing in resis­tance and in exile). It hon­ors not only lit­er­ary qual­i­ty but also the atti­tude and fate of the lau­re­ates and is not exclu­sive­ly reserved to Aus­tri­an authors and to per­sons expelled from Aus­tria. Writ­ing in Ger­man is not a require­ment either.

Through this prize, the Theodor Kramer Soci­ety “sim­ply wish­es to send a sig­nal indi­cat­ing that all of Aus­tria does not trav­el in a sin­gle direc­tion, that it is a coun­try with its own inner con­tra­dic­tions and that, despite its con­tra­dic­tions and its inner strug­gles, this coun­try also moves forward.”

Lau­re­ates are deter­mined by the Theodor Kramer Society’s board of gov­er­nors on the basis of jury rec­om­men­da­tion. It is a prize of recog­ni­tion to which one can­not apply.

This year’s prize will be shared by two lau­re­ates: Mer­al Şimşek and Ger­hard Fritz Ober­schlick, an Aus­tri­an essay­ist. He is the for­mer edi­tor-in-chief of the polit­i­cal and cul­tur­al mag­a­zine FORVM. Under his edi­to­r­i­al direc­tion the mag­a­zine became well known for its intel­lec­tu­al and social crit­i­cism, anti-fas­cism and the strug­gle for human rights. Today, Ger­hard Fritz Ober­schlick is the lit­er­ary execu­tor of Gün­ther Anders’ will. 

Born in Diyarbakır, Mer­al Şimşek is a mem­ber of Kur­dish PEN, of the Asso­ci­a­tion of Kur­dish writ­ers (Kürt Ede­biy­atçılar Derneği), and of the Mesopotami­an Asso­ci­a­tion of Kur­dish writ­ers (Mezopotamya Yazarlar Derneği). Her writ­ings have received numer­ous prizes and been trans­lat­ed into sev­er­al lan­guages, and oth­er trans­la­tions are in progress, notably in Ger­man. Mer­al has pub­lished three col­lec­tions of poems Mül­te­ci Düşler, Ateşe Bulut Yağdıran, İnc­ir Karası and one novel Nar Leke­si . And, very recent­ly Arzela, a book con­tain­ing sev­en short sto­ries and an arti­cle pre­sent­ing them. The first edi­tion of the book, the title of which refers to a wild rose endem­ic in the lands of Helfeti — and which only grows there — was quick­ly sold out, and a sec­ond edi­tion is in the works. Her sixth book, Kav­im­ler Toplamı Yok­luk, still unpub­lished, is also cur­rent­ly being translated.

meral simsek

Mer­al Şimşek shares here her reac­tion and her feelings:

It is unbe­liev­ably mov­ing to be acknowl­edged as wor­thy of this prize. Because it rep­re­sents a very pre­cious dis­tinc­tion in my eyes, and can be con­sid­ered as a dou­ble reward, where the pow­er of your pen and of your resis­tance are acknowl­edged joint­ly. The fact of receiv­ing this prize as a Kur­dish woman takes on yet anoth­er dif­fer­ent lev­el of beauty.

And so I ded­i­cate this prize to all the Kur­dish women who resist. More­over, I wish to express my infi­nite grat­i­tude to the team at Kedis­tan, Naz Oke, Renée Lucie Bourges, Öykü Tek­ten and Burhan Sön­mez, for their trans­la­tions of  my arti­cles that were thus made acces­si­ble to the eval­u­a­tion com­mit­tee who read them in this fashion.

I take this oppor­tu­ni­ty to reit­er­ate yet again that we, Kur­dish women shall nev­er give up and that we will keep on mov­ing for­ward relentlessly”

You can make the author’s acquain­tance through this inter­view she gave a few months ago to Kedis­tan: A con­ver­sa­tion with Kur­dish author Mer­al Şimşek. And dis­cov­er her sto­ry and her lit­er­a­ture through this link. In this archive you will learn, notably, the sto­ry of her attempt at leav­ing Turkey, how she came to the dif­fi­cult deci­sion of leav­ing her coun­try, the vio­lences to which she was sub­ject­ed on the uncer­tain road of migra­tion, par­tic­u­lar­ly in Greece, writ­ten in her pen…

The cats at Kedis­tan warm­ly con­grat­u­late Mer­al for this well-deserved prize, both for her lit­er­a­ture and for her strug­gle, her resis­tance, and are more than hap­py to learn that their trans­la­tions here served as ref­er­ences for the jury mem­bers in their becom­ing acquaint­ed with her fine pen and thus reach­ing their decision…

Translation from French by Renée Lucie Bourges

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Le petit mag­a­zine qui ne se laisse pas caress­er dans le sens du poil.