Lebanese intellectual receives U.N. Arab Culture Prize


Lebanese intellectual Elias Khoury received the UNESCO Sharjah Prize for Arab Culture 2011 on Monday for his efforts to raise awareness of Arab culture around the world.

Khoury was awarded the prize, along with Brazilian publisher, João Baptista de Medeiros Vargens during a ceremony in Paris at the UNESCO headquarters.

Elias Khoury was born in Beirut in 1948. He is a novelist, a playwright, a critic and an academic. He is the author of a dozen novels, including “The Little Mountain,” “White Masks,” “Yalo", "Gate of the Sun” and “As though she was sleeping.” Last December, Khoury released his latest novel “Sinalcol” in Beirut.
His books have been translated into more than 10 languages.

The UNESCO-Sharjah Prize for Arab Culture is an initiative of the United Arab Emirates to reward the efforts of a national of an Arab country and a national of any other country who have contributed, through artistic, intellectual or promotional work, towards the development and dissemination of Arab culture in the world.

In his speech at the ceremony in Paris, Khoury said: ”I cannot think of a more significant coincidence to receive this award than the recent acknowledgement of Palestine as a full member of the UNESCO. The first signs of freedom start to appear in culture, and the voice of freedom for Palestine is part of all the voices of freedom that are shaking the Arab world today.

"My generation has struggled for the values of freedom and justice, and our words were the arms fighting real weapons. Many of our friends have died, been jailed or exiled for these values. But we kept our promise, honored by the blood of Samir Kassir and his comrades, and this promise of freedom, is starting to show today from Sidi Bouzid to Homs (…)
“I can say that our awakening is born again, as we are learning from these revolutions the wisdom of courage and the humility of heroism.”

Talking about Khoury, the International Jury for the Prize, headed by Isabella Camera d’Afflito, said:
“He has witnessed and spread internationally the testimony of human suffering. His struggle and literary production created the image of a free intellectual who is giving a voice to the voiceless.”

Commenting after the award ceremony, Khoury said: “The Arab culture is an essential part of the human culture. So in my reading of the Arab culture, I see the human in it, hoping that when others see the human, they will remember the Arabic culture,” before adding,”I think that Arabic literature is like Arab life, witnessing a huge change, and this change was possible because of many elements, the major one being the courage of the young generation that taught us courage; but there is also another element closely related to culture, because Arab writers and intellectuals played a major role in preparing the way for this democratic revolution.”

Khoury is considered one of the top figures in today’s Arab intellectual world. His admirers say he is a gifted story teller but he is also a man of reality who is highly engaged in the Arab cause for freedom and human rights.

Only few days ago, Khoury announced with other Lebanese writers and intellectuals, their support for the establishment of the Association of Syrian Writers and its founding statement. They said in a statement: “We announce our membership with the association and our support to the Syrian people who refuse the repressive authority and dictatorship.”