Society and Current Affairs
Peace Prize of the German Book Trade for Amartya Sen

Amartya Sen
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Peace Prize of the German Book Trade for Amartya Sen

The Peace Prize of the German Book Trade is considered one of the world’s most prestigious literary awards. The 2020 Peace Prize will be awarded to Amartya Sen, the Indian economist, philosopher and Nobel laureate.

The winner of this year’s prize – Amartya Sen, the Indian economist, philosopher and Nobel laureate – was announced on 17 June 2020 in Frankfurt, the book fair city. The announcement was made by Karin Schmidt-Friderichs who, as head of the German Publishers and Booksellers Association (Börsenverein), is also chairperson of the Board of Trustees.

Amartya Sen was born in 1933, in Shantiniketan, India.  He started teaching in the 1960s and has taught at several universities, including the Delhi School of Economics, Stanford, Berkeley, Oxford and Cambridge. He has been a professor at Harvard University since 2004.  In 1998, he was awarded the Nobel Prize in Economic Sciences. Explaining its decision, the Board of Trustees described Sen ‘as a pioneer who has been addressing issues of global justice for decades’. It went to say that the work of the Indian philosopher to combat social inequality was more relevant today than ever before.

Amartya Sen: A pioneer for global justice

Among Sen’s most important contributions is the idea of ‘evaluating a society’s wealth based not solely on economic growth, but also on the opportunities for development, particularly for its weakest members’, said Karin Schmidt-Fridrichs. According to the jury, ‘his inspiring work is a call to promote a culture of policy-making borne by a sense of responsibility for others, a culture in which nobody is denied a voice or the right to self-determination’.

The internationally recognized award is worth €25,000. The annual prize honours international personalities for contributions to literature, science or art in support of peace. The Board of Trustees of the Peace Prize, an independent jury, selects the winner every year from the proposals that are submitted.  The German Publishers and Booksellers Association has been awarding the prestigious prize since 1950. Sebastiao Salgado, the Brazilian photographer and environmentalist, was honoured in 2019 for his sustained work. The prize has also been awarded to the historian Fritz Stern, the philosopher Jürgen Habermas and the writers and scholars Aleida and Jan Assman.

Award ceremony to be held in St. Paul’s Church, Frankfurt

The prize is traditionally awarded at the end of the Frankfurt Book Fair. This year it will fall on 18 October. The event, which will be recorded by German television and broadcast live, will take place in St. Paul’s Church in Frankfurt. In the past, important but also contentious speeches have been held here. The German writer Martin Walser ignited a heated debate in 1998 when, in his acceptance speech, he spoke of ‘opinion soldiers’ and the ‘banality of the good’ in connection with the Holocaust memorial in Berlin.

The Frankfurt Book Fair is scheduled to go ahead despite coronavirus. However, the number of participants is expected to be significantly lower and fewer visitors will be allowed to the fair-grounds. The German Publishers and Booksellers Association announced that the award ceremony for the Peace Prize would also take place ‘in accordance with the health regulations applicable at the time.’