Six authors have been named on the shortlist for the 2019 Jewish Quarterly-Wingate Literary Prize, including one debut effort and another which was originally published in 1945.
Now in its 42nd year, the £4,000 prize is awarded to works – both fiction or non-fiction – which “translate the idea of Jewishness to the general reader”. Entrants do not need to be Jewish.
One of the shortlisted books, No Place to Lay One’s Head, is the rediscovered memoir of Jewish bookseller Françoise Frenkel, who escaped Berlin for France in 1939, before fleeing once more for Switzerland.
After a limited number of copies were first printed in 1945, it was rediscovered in a car boot sale in southern France and republished in 2015. Its English version was published in 2018, 43 years after the author’s death.
Another translated work, Evacuation by French author Raphaël Jerusalmy, follows the recounting of a story of an army-led evacuation of Tel Aviv during an unnamed war.
Debut novelist Lisa Halliday was also shortlisted for Asymmetry, a novel centred on love affair between a 25-year old editor and a famous Jewish writer in his 70s – partly inspired by the author’s relationship with the late Philip Roth.
The list of nominees is made up by Chloe Benjamin for The Immortalists; Dara Horn for Eternal Life; and Mark Sarvas for Memento Park.
Past JQ-Wingate winner Thomas Harding; children’s author Francesca Simon; JHub director Shoshana Boyd Gelfand; and literary critic Arifa Akbar will form the judging panel.
Rabbi Boyd Gelfand said: “The judges felt that many of our chosen shortlist have used the power of fiction to address important historical, political and ethical themes in ways which are usually addressed by works of non-fiction.
“In addition, four of our six books are written by women, another positive development and one that we hope continues.
“When we started our judging process, we hoped to discover books that explored Jewish issues in novel and compelling ways.
“Without exception, these short list books fulfil those expectations. We hope all readers will feel similarly.”
The winner of the 2019 prize will be announced during at JW3 on February 25. The evening will be chaired by the BBC’s Emily Kasriel.