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Award: Goethe Meets Smiley

Goethe-InstitutCopyright: Laurent/Cornwell/Zawada
The awardees: Mnouchkine, Le Carré and Michnik (Photos: Michèle Laurent/Stephen Cornwell/Albert Zawada)

20 June 2011

John Le Carré, ex-member of the British secret service and writer of numerous spy thrillers, is one of this year’s recipients of the Goethe Medal. The award has little to do with the merits of espionage, however, as the medals going to Adam Michnik and Ariane Mnouchkine demonstrate.

In fact, the Goethe-Institut’s medal honours people who have performed outstanding service for the German language and international cultural dialogue. This year, the recipients are three public European figures whose life and work have contributed to the development of coalescence, peace and creativity in Europe.

Ariane Mnouchkine is an icon of European theatre. Over forty years ago she launched the Théâtre du Soleil, of which she is the manager and director. The theatre’s alternative productions are still unique today, telling stories of connectedness and conflicts between cultures. She has often been a guest in Germany with many of them.

Adam Michnik is a significant Polish intellectual whose life’s work – as a civil rights activist in a Communist regime and a mastermind of a free, democratic state as well as the publisher of the nation’s largest newspaper – is interwoven with the end of the Eastern Bloc and the rise of Eastern Europe. With its decision, the Goethe Medal jury recognizes his outstanding contribution to the dialogue between Eastern and Western Europe and between Poland and Germany in particular.

The Spy Who Came in from the Cold is one of John le Carré’s best known works. He is being awarded for his life’s work. Le Carré’s million-selling espionage thrillers take place during the Cold War. It has always been Le Carré’s conviction that learning languages is the key to understanding between peoples and he never made a secret of his love for the German language, which he speaks fluently.

The Goethe Medal will be conferred in Weimar on 28 August, the birth date of Johann Wolfgang von Goethe. Since its first bestowal in 1955, 326 people from 58 countries have been honoured including film director Billy Wilder, philosopher Karl Popper, conductor Daniel Barenboim and the late writer Jorge Semprún.

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