Page-turners McEwan, Eco head to Jerusalem

Featuring over 600 authors, editors, literary agents, the 25th J'lem International Book Festival will be held at Binyenei Ha’uma.

Jerusalem International Book Festival 311 (photo credit: Courtesy)
Jerusalem International Book Festival 311
(photo credit: Courtesy)
Israel’s most prestigious book festival kicks off on Sunday with a ceremony honoring prolific English author Ian McEwan with the Jerusalem Prize.
The 25th Jerusalem International Book Festival runs from February 20-25, and will feature over 600 authors, editors and literary agents from 30 countries around the world. The event, which is held biennially, will be held in the International Convention Center (Binyenei Ha’uma) at the entrance to Jerusalem.
Ian McEwan is the author of Atonement, The Innocent, Amsterdam, The Comfort of Strangers and Saturday, among others.
His newest book, Solar, is a satirical novel based on climate change.
The Jerusalem Prize is one of the highest awards for foreign authors in Israel, and has previously been awarded to Bertrand Russell, Jorge Luis Borges, Arthur Miller, Susan Sontag and last year to Japanese minimalist writer Haruki Murakami.
The group British Writers in Support of Palestine denounced McEwan for accepting the “corrupt and cynical honor” and reminded McEwan that he could “reject the Jerusalem Prize right up to the moment that your hands are dirtied by receiving it.”
McEwan announced at the end of January that he was planning on accepting the award at a ceremony in Jerusalem.
“It is a highly distinguished award and I am honored to join the backlist of writers who are previous winners,” he told the British media.
In response to a letter from BWISP in The Guardian at the end of January, McEwan wrote in his own letter, “I have my own concerns about Israel and the situation of the Palestinians, which is worse than ever,” calling the recent PaliLeaks documents “depressing.”
However, he drew the distinction between civil society and the government.
“I’m for finding out for myself, and for dialogue, engagement, and looking for ways in which literature, especially fiction, with its impulse to enter other minds, can reach across political divides,” he wrote in the letter. “There are ways in which art can have a longer reach than politics.”
Haruki Murakami was also discouraged from accepting the Jerusalem Prize in 2009.
“Like most novelists,” he said in his acceptance speech, “I like to do exactly the opposite of what I am told. It’s in my nature as a novelist.”
Other highlights at the book fair include a conversation between Italian author Umberto Eco and A.B. Yehoshua, Marina Nemat discussing her book The Prisoner of Tehran with film director Anat Zuria (Tehora, Mekudeshet) and a panel about correspondence across cultural divides called “Sisters, not enemies: Telling the story of Jews and Arabs in Israel in another voice,” as well as dozens of book-signings and book launches in French, Russian, Hebrew and English.
Visitors can also attend educational panels on topics ranging from translating classic Jewish stories into Russian, the impact of digital media on the publishing world, or learn about subjects as specific as poetry in ancient India or the effect of narcotics on Romanian literature.
There will be a children’s hour daily from 4 to 6 p.m. with authors, including Smadar Shir, reading their stories to children in Hebrew.
Entrance to almost all events is free. More information is available on the JIBF website at