Indian publisher Urvashi Butalia among winners of Goethe Medal

Aug 29, 2017

From tackling gender discrimintion to the politics of memory, the three recipients of this year's Goethe Medal, presented on Goethe's birthday by the Goethe-Institut, aren't afraid of ruffling feathers.

Russian civil rights activist Irina Sherbakova Enlarge image Russian civil rights activist Irina Sherbakova (© picture alliance/dpa)

On 28th August the Goethe-Institut, Germany's leading organization for the promotion of German language and culture abroad, presents its 2017 medal to Indian publisher Urvashi Butalia, Lebanese author Emily Nasrallah and Russian civil rights activist Irina Sherbakova for their dedication to the field of cross-cultural exchange.

The award is always presented on 28th August- the birthday of renowned thinker and writer John Wolfgang von Geothe.

The three women are to receive their medals in a ceremony at the Weimar Palace in the east-central federal state of Thuringia. The winners had been announced in June. Lebanese author Emily Nasrallah Enlarge image Lebanese author Emily Nasrallah (© picture alliance/dpa)

The president of the Goethe-Institut, Klaus-Dieter Lehmann, will presented Butalia, Nasrallah and Sherbakova with their medals, praising the trio for tackling taboo social themes that include gender violence and memory politics.

Marianne Birthler, the former federal commissioner for documentation from the East German secret police (Stasi), journalist Emily Dische-Becker and sociologist Christa Wichterich are also slated to give speeches Monday honoring the medal recipients.

Three trail-blazing women

Butalia was a co-founder of India's first feminist publishing house, Kali for Women, in 1984 and has spent over 40 years giving voice to marginalized groups. As a writer, she covers the modern history of India and has contributed to leading newspapers including the UK's The Guardian and the Times of India. After Kali closed in 2003, Butalia founded Zubaan Books, which also focuses on feminist publishing.

Nasrallah, one of today's best-known authors of the Arab world, achieved fame with the publication of her first novel "Birds of September" in 1962. Using a highly poetic writing style, the Lebanese author has written scores of novels, short story collections and children's books. Her works tackle topics such as Lebanon's civil war, daily life in Lebanese villages and equal rights for women. Many of her books have been translated into German as well as English.

In 1987, Russian cultural studies expert Sherbakova helped initiate Memorial, one of Russia's most prominent human rights organizations and first NGOs. The group landed on the governments list of "foreign agents" in 2016, making it subject to increased scrutiny.

Sherbakova's research and activist areas include Soviet history and the legacy of Stalinism and totalitarianism in the 20th century. She is also a German scholar, and the Goethe committee highlighted how she has helped improve German-Russian understanding.

Happy birthday Goethe

The theme for the 2017 Goethe Medal was "Language is the key." Since the prize's inception in 1954, a total of 344 individuals from 65 countries have been honored with it.
Previous recipients include conductor Daniel Barenboim, sociologist Pierre Bourdieu, spy novelist David Cornwell alias John le Carré, poet Lars Gustafsson, philosopher Anges Heller, writer Petros Markaris, political activist and writer Jorge Semprun, stage director Robert Wilson, editor Helen Wolff and writer Yurii Andrukhovych.

© 2017 Deutsche Welle

Indian publisher Urvashi Butalia among winners of Goethe Medal

India's Urvashi Butalia among is one of the 3 recipients of the prestigious Goethe Medal

Indian writer & publisher, Urvashi Butalia received the prestigious 'Goethe Medal'

Indian writer & publisher, Urvashi Butalia received the prestigious 'Goethe Medal' which is rewarded yearly. The medal honors individuals who have displayed exceptional competence of the German language as well as in international cultural exchange.

Read more