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Press Release: Prizes and Awards
JQ-Wingate Literary Prize Shortlist

Posted at 3:01PM Thursday 22 Apr 2010

The shortlist for this year's JQ-Wingate Literary Prize has been revealed, the winner will be announced at a ceremony in June.

The shortlist is as follows:

•The Blind Side of the Heart by Julia Franck (Harvill Secker)

•My Happiness Bears No Relation to Happiness by Adina Hoffman (Yale UP)

•The Glass Room by Simon Mawer (Little, Brown)

•The Invention of the Jewish People by Shlomo Sand (Verso)

Commenting on the shortlist, Chairman of the Judging panel Anne Karpf said: "We had — as book prize juries famously do — a full and frank discussion. To get onto the shortlist a book needed at least two passionate advocates. The four that emerged are all powerful works that leave you with a different view of the world. Of the two novels, both of them set in pre- and post-war Europe, one is the baroque, unflinching story of a woman's survival (of sorts) despite the depredations of a damaged family and damaging culture; the other, the moving tale of a modernist house whose inhabitants' hopes for a better future are challenged by the tragic times in which they live. Our two non-fiction choices both ask searching questions about the Middle East: one, controversially, about Israel's founding national story and its Biblical origins; the other, the first ever biography of a Palestinian writer of any kind, beautifully illuminating the Palestinian experience. Together these four books make up a literary feast."

This is the only UK prize to recognise writing by Jewish and non-Jewish authors, which stimulates an interest in themes of Jewish concern while appealing to the general reader.

Former winners include Amos Oz, David Grossman, Zadie Smith, Imre Kertesz, Oliver Sacks, WG Sebald, Etgar Keret and Fred Wander.

Notes to Editors

Established in 1977 by the late Harold Hyam Wingate, the Jewish Quarterly-Wingate Literary Prize is now in its 33rd year. The winner of the 2010 prize will receive £4,000.

Jewish and non-Jewish authors resident in the UK, British Commonwealth, Europe and Israel are eligible. Books submitted must be in English, either originally or in translation.

The Jewish Quarterly is the foremost Jewish literary and cultural journal in the English language. This year it celebrates 57 years of publication.

The Harold Hyam Wingate Charitable Foundation is a private grant-giving institution, established over forty years ago. In addition to supporting the Jewish Quarterly-Wingate Literary Prizes, it has also organised and supported the Wingate Scholarships.

THE JUDGES

•Anne Karpf is a writer, sociologist and award-winning journalist who writes for The Guardian, broadcasts regularly on Radios 3 and 4, and teaches at London Metropolitan University. Her books include the family memoir The War After: Living with the Holocaust (recently republished by Faber Finds) and The Human Voice: The Story of a Remarkable Talent (Bloomsbury). She is co-editor of A Time to Speak Out: Independent Jewish Voices on Israel, Zionism and Jewish Identity (Verso).

•Naomi Gryn is a writer, broadcaster and filmmaker. Television documentaries include The Sabbath Bride, Chasing Shadows, The Star, and The Castle & The Butterfly. A former chairman of Society of Authors' Broadcasting Group, she has written and presented a number of radio documentaries for BBC, including A Strange Legacy (Radio 4), Next Year In Jerusalem (Radio 2), Inside The New Yorker (Radio 4), and The Jews of India (World Service). Naomi co-authored and edited her father's (Rabbi Hugo Gryn) memoirs, Chasing Shadows for Viking/Penguin.

•Joseph Finlay is a composer, pianist and a grassroots Jewish activist. He has co-founded, or been closely involved in Wandering Jews, Jewdas, Moishe House London, and the Open Talmud Project.

•Robert Cassen OBE is Visiting Professor at the Centre for Analysis of Social Exclusion, London School of Economics. He was a Professorial Fellow at the Institute of Development Studies in Sussex, and Director of Queen Elizabeth House and Professor of Development Economics at Oxford. He served on the staff of DfID, the British High Commission in New Delhi, the World Bank, and the Brandt Commission and is the author of India: Population, Economy, Society; of Does Aid Work? (with associates); 21st Century India: Population, Economy, Human Development and the Environment; with Tim Dyson and Leela Visaria, and Tackling Low Educational Achievement: a Report for the Joseph Rowntree Foundation with Geeta Kingdon.

THE SHORTLIST

THE BLIND SIDE OF THE HEART

by Julia Franck translated by Anthea Bell

Amid the chaos of civilians fleeing West in a provincial German railway station in 1945 Helene has brought her seven-year-old son. Having survived with him through the horrors and deprivations of the war years, she abandons him on the station platform and never returns.

Helene and her sister Martha's childhood in rural Germany is abruptly ended by the outbreak of the First World War. Her father, sent to the Eastern Front, comes home only to die. Their Jewish mother withdraws from the hostility of her surroundings into a state of mental confusion.

Helene calls the condition blindness of the heart, and fears the growing coldness of her mother, who hardly seems to notice her daughters any more. After their father's death, she and Martha move to Berlin. The Blind Side of the Heart tells of two World Wars, of hope, loneliness and love, and of a life lived in terrible times. It is a great family novel, a powerful portrayal of an era, and the story of a fascinating woman.

Julia Franck was born in Berlin in 1970. She studied the anthropology of Native Americans, philosophy, and German language and literature at the Free University of Berlin. The Blind Side of the Heart won the German Book Prize, Germany's most prestigious literary award. She lives in Berlin.

MY HAPPINESS BEARS NO RELATION TO HAPPINESS: A Poet's Life in the Palestinian Century

by Adina Hoffman

This book tells the story of an exceptional man and the culture from which he emerged: Taha Muhammad Ali was born in 1931 in the Galilee village of Saffuriyya and was forced to flee during the war in 1948. He travelled on foot to Lebanon and returned a year later to find his village destroyed. An autodidact, he has since run a souvenir shop in Nazareth, at the same time evolving into what one leading American critic has dubbed "perhaps the most accessible and delightful poet alive today".

As it places Muhammad Ali's life in the context of the lives of his predecessors and peers, My Happiness offers a sweeping depiction of a charged and fateful epoch. It is a work that Arabic scholar Michael Sells describes as "among the five 'must read' books on the Israel-Palestine tragedy". In an era when talk of the "Clash of Civilizations" dominates, this biography offers something else entirely: a view of the people and culture of the Middle East that is rich, nuanced, and above all else, deeply human.

Adina Hoffman is the author of House of Windows: Portraits from a Jerusalem Neighborhood, My Happiness Bears No Relation to Happiness: A Poet's Life in the Palestinian Century, and, with Peter Cole, the forthcoming Sacred Trash: The Lost and Found World of the Cairo Geniza. She lives in Jerusalem.

THE GLASS ROOM

by Simon Mawer

Cool. Balanced. Modern. The precisions of science, the wild variance of lust, the catharsis of confession and the fear of failure - these are things that happen in the Glass Room.

High on a Czechoslovak hill, the Landauer House shines as a wonder of steel and glass and onyx built specially for newlyweds Viktor and Liesel Landauer, a Jew married to a gentile. But the radiant honesty of 1930 that the house, with its unique Glass Room, seems to engender quickly tarnishes as the storm clouds of WW2 gather, and eventually the family must flee, accompanied by Viktor's lover and her child.

But the house's story is far from over, and as it passes from hand to hand, from Czech to Russian, both the best and the worst of the history of Eastern Europe becomes somehow embodied and perhaps emboldened within the beautiful and austere surfaces and planes so carefully designed, until events come full-circle.

Simon Mawer was born in 1948 in England, and spent his childhood there, in Cyprus and in Malta. He now lives with his wife and two children in Italy, and teaches at the English School in Rome.

THE INVENTION OF THE JEWISH PEOPLE

by Shlomo Sand translated by Yael Lotan

In this bold and ambitious new book, Shlomo Sand shows that the Israeli national myth has its origins in the nineteenth century, rather than in biblical times — when Jewish historians, like scholars in many other cultures, reconstituted an imagined people in order to model a future nation. Sand forensically dissects the official story — and demonstrates the construction of a nationalist myth and the collective mystification that this requires.

A bestseller in Israel and France, Shlomo Sand's book has sparked a widespread and lively debate. Should the Jewish people regard themselves as genetically distinct and identifiable across the millennia — or should that doctrine now be left behind and if the myth of the "Jewish state" is dismantled, could this open a path toward a more inclusive Israeli state, content within its borders?

Shlomo Sand studied history at the University of Tel Aviv and at the École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales, in Paris. He currently teaches contemporary history at the University of Tel Aviv. His other books include L'Illusion du politique: Georges Sorel et le débat intellectuel 1900, Georges Sorel en son temps, Le XXe siècle à l'écran and Les Mots et la Terre: Les Intellectuels en Israël.

For more information on the JQ-Wingate Prize, or to contact the judges, please email editorial@jewishquarterly.org or visit www.jewishquarterly.org




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