Prize author: Hawking is wrong over boycott

Two writers with links to the Hebrew University in Jerusalem have been nominated for a major British-based literary prize.

Croatian-born author Josip Novakovich, who is a visiting professor of creative writing at the university, and Israeli novelist Aharon Appelfeld, who studied there, are among the 10 nominees in the running for the £60,000 international Man Booker Award, which is due to be presented in London next week.

The prize was last claimed by Phillip Roth and is open to writers working in any language.

Speaking ahead of the award ceremony, Mr Novakovich said he disagreed with fellow academic Stephen Hawking’s decision to boycott a conference in Jerusalem next month.

“In general I don’t believe in boycotts,” he said.

“No matter what anyone thinks of the politics the only way to resolve an impasse is through dialogue, so it is always better to come and discuss it.”

Mr Nova-kovich, who teaches both Hebrew- and Arabic-speakers at the university, added that academics would do better to adopt a policy of talking to everyone.

“It would make it easier to reach a common solution,” he said. “Going to Israel is far better than saying no to dialogue — no dialogue actually resolves nothing.”

Living in Jerusalem, he said he was struck by how well the different religious groups co-existed in the Old City — something, he noted, which was too rarely acknowledged by the media.

“My attitude in literature is to look at a story and see what is working and then do it more, and I think politically it should be the same — let’s see what is working and let’s try to make it stronger.”

He said he did not expect to win the award, because the other nominees “have been published way more than I have”, but he was looking forward to meeting other writers, including Mr Appelfeld.

Last updated: 4:45pm, May 17 2013