GERMANY (Goethe Institute)—Doğan Akhanlı, born in 1957 in Turkey, has lived in Cologne as a freelance author since 1992. Before fleeing to Germany, he was arrested several times in Turkey.
Akhanlı began to write in exile and has authored numerous novels and plays, in which he repeatedly advocates the truthful handling of historical violence, remembrance and the indivisibility of human rights. His trilogy Kayip Denizler (The Seas That Disappeared) was published in the late 1990s. Its final volume Kiyamet Günü Yargiçlari (Judges of Last Judgment) describes the 1915 genocide in Armenia. His novel Madonna’nin Son Hayali (Madonna’s Last Dream, 2005, German version 2019) is about the sinking of a freighter carrying 700 Jewish refugees in the Black Sea in 1942 by a Russian submarine. His first play in German Annes Schweigen (Anne’s Silence) premiered in Berlin in 2012 at Theater unterm Dach, and in Cologne in January 2013 at Theater im Bauturm.
In addition to his writing, Akhanlı is actively involved in the dialogue between different cultures, ethnic groups and religions. In 2002, Akhanlı began offering German-Turkish guided tours in the former Gestapo prison in Cologne, spoke to Turkish youths about the persecution of the Jews during National Socialism and lectured on “Anti-Semitism in the Immigrant Society.” In Berlin, he launched the project Flight, Exile and Persecution. His latest book Verhaftung in Granada oder: Treibt die Türkei in die Diktatur? (Arrest in Granada or Is Turkey Heading to Dictatorship?) (2018) is about his 2017 arrest at the request of Turkey in Spain. Doğan Akhanlı was the 2018 recipient of the European Tolerance Award for Democracy and Human Rights.
About Goethe Medal:
Once a year, the Goethe-Institut awards the Goethe Medal, an official decoration of the Federal Republic of Germany. This medal honors luminaries who have performed outstanding service for the German language and for international cultural relations.
The candidates for the Goethe Medal are nominated every year by the Goethe-Instituts abroad in close collaboration with Germany’s diplomatic representation offices. The Goethe Medal Conferment Commission, consisting of persons from the fields of science, the arts and culture, pre-selects the awardees who must then be confirmed by the Board of Trustees. The chair of the Goethe Medal Conferment Commission is the cultural scientist and Vice President of the Goethe-Institut Christina von Braun.
The Goethe Medal was established by the Executive Committee of the Goethe-Institut in 1954 and acknowledged as an official decoration by the Federal Republic of Germany in 1975. Since 2009, the award ceremony has taken place in Weimar on 28 August, Goethe’s birthday. Thus, the ceremony fits seamlessly into the Weimar Kultursommer and one of its highlights, the Kunstfest Weimar. Together with the Kunstfest, the Goethe-Institut organizes a fringe program that rounds off the festivities for the conferment of the Goethe Medal and offers further opportunities to meet the awardees.
Since it was first awarded in 1955, a total of 348 people from 65 countries have been honoured. The awardees have included Daniel Barenboim, Pierre Bourdieu, David Cornwell AKA John le Carré, Sir Ernst Gombrich, Lars Gustafsson, Ágnes Heller, Petros Markaris, Sir Karl Raimund Popper, Jorge Semprún, Robert Wilson, Neil MacGregor, Helen Wolff and Irina Shcherbakova.