06 March 2006

A Principled Decision

Author Paul Verhaeghen has turned down the prize money accompanying the prestigious Flemish Culture Award for Fiction. Why? Because he is a U.S. resident, and he doesn't want to support Bush's war in Iraq. Some of the prize money would be diverted to the U.S. government, presumably through income tax. In his speech—in which he accepted the award, but turned down the money—Verhaeghen explains his decision: "I have made the calculation. If I would accept the 12,500 euros associated with this award, about five thousand dollars would flow into the American Treasury. I could pretend that this money will be used to finance public schools or medical care, or will help to alleviate the suffering of the forty million Americans who live below the poverty line. But who would I be kidding? The president just asked Congress for an extra 120 billion in emergency funds for the war. I gladly accept the award, but the money—no, that I cannot accept. This money would be paid for in human blood." Verhaeghen was awarded the prize for the novel Omega Minor, written in Flemish, his native tongue. The English translation of Omega Minor is forthcoming in 2007 (Dalkey Archive Press). The full text of Verhaeghen's speech can be found here (in .pdf format). Via The Elegant Variation.

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