Vaclav Havel Library Foundation Announces Asli Erdogan as the 2019 Winner, Disturbing the Peace, Award to a Courageous Writer at Risk

The Vaclav Havel Library Foundation announced today that the winner of the 2019 Disturbing the Peace, Award to a Courageous Writer at Risk is Turkish author Asli Erdogan.

Erdogan is the author of eight best-selling works of fiction and essays, including her best-known novel, The City in Crimson Cloak (Soft Skull Press, 2007). Erdogan was also a columnist on human rights and related topics for the newspaper Ozgur Gundem, which the Turkish government closed down in 2018 because of its pro-Kurdish position.

asli_erdogan_sized_for_off_siteIn August 2016, Erdogan was arrested by Istanbul police and charged with supporting terrorism. After an international outcry, she was released from detention in 2017 and now lives in exile in Germany. Her novel The Stone Building and Other Places (City Lights, 2017) describes her harrowing experience in prison, including solitary confinement, and was a finalist for the 2019 PEN Translation Prize.

In addition to the Disturbing the Peace Award to a Courageous Writer at Risk, Erdogan is the recipient of the Simone de Beauvoir Prize and the Erich Maria Remarque Peace Prize.  She was the subject of a profile in The New Yorker in June 2017.

Asli Erdogan will receive the Disturbing the Peace Award, which includes a $5,000 cash prize, from Ms. Dagmar Havlova, the widow of the Czech president, dissident, and human rights activist Vaclav Havel, during a Gala evening on September 26, 2019, at the Bohemian National Hall in New York City.

About the Award Process

Nominations for the award are collected each year from international institutions prominent in literature and human rights. A short list is prepared by the VHLF Award Committee and forwarded to jurors, who select the awardee. The previous recipients of the Disturbing the Peace Award are Chinese author, reporter, musician, and poet Liao Yiwu (2018), Kurdish novelist Burhan Sönmez (2017), and Burmese writer Ma Thida (2016).

In 2019, the VHLF consulted with the following organizations:

The jury members for 2019 included:

 Liao Yiwu also known as Lao Wei, is a Chinese author, reporter, musician, and poet. He is a critic of China’s Communist regime, for which he was imprisoned. After his release, he wrote several books under pseudonyms, all of which were banned in China but sold well on the underground market.

Wen Huang is a writer, journalist, and translator who came to the United States after taking part in the protests at the Tiananmen Square in 1989. His memoir The Little Red Guard was published by Penguin Random House in 2012.

Kevin Klose is a journalist and former editor and national and foreign correspondent with The Washington Post and a former president of National Public Radio. He is the author of Russia and the Russians: Inside the Closed Society (1984, Norton), and co-author of other books.

Elzbieta Matynia is Professor of Sociology and Liberal Studies and founding director of the Transregional Center for Democratic Studies at the New School. She is the author of Performative Democracy (2009, Paradigm) and An Uncanny Era. Conversations between Adam Michnik and Vaclav Havel (2013 Yale University Press).

Their feedback in support of the Asli Erdogan nomination stated:

“…number ONE choice is a woman writer from Turkey, Asli Erdogan, author of The Stone Building and Other Places, known for her longstanding engagement with human rights activities. Her book of stories captures both the resilience and the fragility of the human condition as they become visible through the ghostly memories of a political prisoner, the utter loneliness of a refugee, and the sense of loss experienced by those who find themselves under conditions of involuntary diaspora, a humiliating combination of statelessness and rightlessness.

Looking from the outside, one realizes that the power of the writing (and YES, of the author herself) is the power of entirely new critical actors represented by women today — women who organize, speak, mobilize and act for the rights of ALL. Asli’s is an extraordinary voice, one which is carefully listened to and discussed by the younger generation of women and men of Turkey, whether at home or in exile.”

The other four nominees for 2019 included Ahmet Altan (Turkey, in prison), Atef Abu Saif (Palestinian, living in Gaza), Ketty Nivyabandi (Burundi/Canada), and Marcia Tiburi (Brazil, living in France).

Members of the VHLF Award Committee are:

  • Tamar Newberger, computer scientist, activist
  • Pavla Niklova, VHLF executive director
  • Martin Palous, former ambassador of the Czech Republic to the United Nations and the United States, and president, VHLF board of directors
  • Lise Stone, vice-chair, VHLF board of directors
  • Salil Tripathi, chair, Writers in Prison Committee, PEN International
  • Marilyn Wyatt, vice-chair, VHLF board of directors

Press release: DISTURBING THE PEACE, Havel Foundation Award 2019