German Book Prize winner shaves head in solidarity with Iranian women

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When nonbinary author Kim de l’Horizon was announced the winner of the German Book Prize on Monday, they got up and hugged their friends, walked onstage, took a breath and said, “Wow.”

De l’Horizon, who was awarded for their debut novel, “Blutbuch” (Blood Book), got choked up while thanking family and friends at the ceremony in Frankfurt.

“But this award is not just for me,” the author said, pulling out an electric razor. “I think the jury also chose this text to make a statement against hate, for love, for the struggle of all people who are oppressed because of their bodies.”

The audience began clapping as de l’Horizon shaved their hair. The prize is also “obviously for the women in Iran,” they said, prompting the suited-up crowd to give the author a standing ovation.

For more than a month, women in Iran have spearheaded nationwide demonstrations against the government, defying the conservative clerical establishment to protest years of repression and economic neglect.

The demonstrations began after a young woman died while in the custody of Iran’s “morality police” in the capital, Tehran. The unit said it detained 22-year-old Mahsa Amini for failing to properly wear a headscarf, a violation of the country’s strict Islamic dress code.

In response, Iranian women began removing their headscarves at protests and, in some cases, shearing off their locks. Soon, French actresses, Italian art museum-goers and a Swedish member of the European Parliament all joined in to publicly cut their hair in solidarity with Iranian women.

“We should all look to Iran in admiration for this courage, this power,” de l’Horizon said. “It shows how stupid our worldview was that we thought femininity is only emancipated in the Western world.”

De l’Horizon’s novel features a nonbinary protagonist who interrogates their family history as their grandmother slips into dementia.

The jury lauded the book as one that “is in constant motion” and whose “every linguistic attempt … reveals an urgency and literary innovation.”

The novel’s narrator “searches for a language of their own,” the jury said in a statement. “What narratives exist for a body that eludes conventional notions of gender?”

The German prize, which includes an award of 25,000 euros, is awarded to the “German-language novel of the year.”

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