I’ve had the huge honour, this year, of serving as a judge on the Jewish Quarterly Wingate Prize. The award is for a book of literary merit which encourages conversations on matters of Jewish interest. Every book on the shortlist is well worth a read, and the winner .... well the winner will be announced as part of the Jewish Book Week celebrations of all things Jewish and bookish on the 26th February.
Edith Pearlman short story collection, Binocular Vision, contains both new stories and highlights from a career as one of American’s leading short-story writers. At her best Pearlman has an extraordinary ability to capture something poignant and moving and her insights into Jewish suburban life are gorgeous.
Otto Dov Kulka is a mature historian of the Holocaust who, late in life, has finally attempted to lift the veil on his academic work and reveal something of his own life’s journey, as a Holocaust survivor and a scholar. The Landscapes of the Metropolis of Death is wise, haunting, personal and terribly moving.
Shani Boianjiu’s novel, The People of Forever are Not Afraid, is a look inside life in the contemporary Israeli Army as seen through the eyes of young female soldiers. It’s raw, sexual and vibrant. It’s a book about the absence of an existential threat to the state and search for meaning without something that so inspired previous generations.
Ben Marcus’ The Flame Alphabet charts life in a dystopian imagined world where language kills – and the language of children most especially. It’s a brave attempt to portray a world almost unimaginable – especially for a Jew, for whom speech is so integral.
Anouk Markovits grew up in an ultra-orthodox world, and left. It’s a personal insight that illuminates I Am Forbidden, a page turner tale of a young woman who leaves, and another who stays in the Satmar community into which they were born. It’s a tale about the collision of law and love and I thought it worked beautifully.
Yudit Kiss reflects on The Summer My Father Died . Kiss grew up in Budapest, daughter of a proud communist. As communism fails and she begins her own exploration of Judaism her father suffers first one then a second brain tumour. It’s the story of a century, told with insight and a daughter’s love.
There are still some tickets available for the discussion and presentation of the award. You can book tickets at http://tinyurl.com/pl73ug6. It should be a wonderful evening.