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Molina accepts J'lem prize despite boycott calls
By GREER FAY CASHMAN
02/10/2013
President Peres almost "moved to tears" by book; Jerusalem Mayor Barkat thanks author for resisting pressures not to attend.
 
Spanish-born writer Antonio Munoz Molina was awarded the 2013 Jerusalem Prize Sunday night at the opening of the 26th Jerusalem International Book Fair at the International Convention Center.

With President Shimon Peres in attendance, retired Supreme Court justice Daila Dorner, who headed the jury, described Molina as “the most outstanding among the most outstanding.”

He preserves historical memory in numerous ways, she said, and does not hesitate to wander among different literary genres and subjects.

The jury had been particularly impressed by the sympathy Molina expresses for exiles, “which makes him one of the most important authors of our time.”

“We have been struck by his depth of morality, his humanism and his intellectuality,” she said.

Peres confessed that he been moved almost to tears when reading Molina’s book, especially the chapter entitled “Those that wait,” which presents so many indepth unanswered questions about our lives.

Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat said that Molina’s writing expressed tolerance and the freedom of the individual, and touched the complexity of the soul. He thanked the author for resisting pressures urging him not to come to Jerusalem.

Molina was almost embarrased to be delivering the speech in public, because writing is a solitary occupation.

He thanked the translators for making his work available to a Hebrew readership, saying that they also deserved an award.

Stressing the significance of literature both to writer and reader, Molina said it was important for parents and teachers to pass on to children a love of the written word.

This year’s fair marks the debut of new chairman Avi Pasner, a retired diplomat who served as a senior adviser to former prime minister Yitzhak Shamir and, after retiring from the Foreign Ministry as chairman of Keren Hayesod.

Barkat had nominated Pasner to step into the late Zev Birger’s large shoes.

Birger took a small book fair and transformed it into one of the largest and most important of its kind in the world, said Barkat.

Peres also paid tribue to Birger. He said that other than Teddy Kollek, no-one had made a greater contribution to Jerusalem.

Barkat described Birger as a great Jew and a great Israeli who turned the bookfair into Israel’s intellectual visiting card. The Jerusalem editorial and agent fellowship will now bear Birger’s name.

Birger, he said, had turned the city into the “capital of the book.”

Barkat said that “it was strange and difficult to open the book fair without him, first as its director, then as chairman, for 30 years.

The book fair was launched in 1963, with the first of the biannual Jerusalem prizes awarded to Bertrude Russell by former mayor Mordechai Ish Shalom.
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