U.S. Author Shuns Gunter Grass Award Over Controversial Israel Poem

Dave Eggers says in statement he will not accept the award in person because the controversy over Gunter Grass's poem criticizing Western hypocrisy over Israel's nuclear program will distract from proceedings.

U.S. author Dave Eggers, announced he will not attend the award ceremony to accept a literary prize he has been awarded by the Gunter Grass Foundation following the controversy over Gunter Grass's publication of a poem criticizing Western hypocrisy over Israel's nuclear program.

In his poem, "What Must Be Said," Grass labeled Israel a threat to "already fragile world peace" over its belligerent stance regarding Iran.

U.S. author Dave Eggers.

The Albatross prize, worth 40 thousand euros and won in the past by literary luminaries such as David Grossman, was awarded to Eggers for his 2009 novel Zeitoun, which tells the story of the experiences of a Syrian-American after Hurricane Katrina.

Through his publisher in Germany, the 42- year old author said in a statement that because the organizers of the awards ceremony had refused to postpone it in the wake of the controversy caused by Grass' poem, he had decided not to take part.

"In the wake of Mr Grass's recent controversial poem, I felt that the award ceremony should be postponed, so the controversy would not distract from the very separate work of the Foundation and the subject matter of Zeitoun," the author said.

"The organizers chose to go on with the ceremony on the existing date, and thus I felt it best if I did not attend in person. The issues raised in Grass's recent poem are not issues I am prepared to speak about, and I would have been expected to comment on them repeatedly. That said, I am happy that the Foundation has recognized my book and has brought attention to the issues of justice and interfaith cooperation I attempted to highlight in Zeitoun," he said.

Eggers thanked the foundation for the award, and said that when he was originally notified of the prize in December, he asked that the money be passed to German organizations that work toward interfaith dialogue.

The Albatross prize is awarded to an author "is exceptional for its high literary quality and its cultural and socio-political relevance." The judges said that Zeitoun "makes a powerful case for civic conscience and convictions."