A debut novelist who is a staunch critic of the Israeli government has won the Costa Book of the Year.
Nathan Filer won the £30,000 prize last night, beating bookies’ favourites Kate Atkinson and Lucy Hughes-Hallett, for his first novel, The Shock of the Fall – a story about mental illness.
Collecting the award, the 32-year-old writer said he had not prepared a speech, but thanked the judges Rose Tremain, Emma Kennedy, Sharleen Spiteri, John Burnside and Matthew Cain, as well as his wife, Emily.
Mr Filer’s novel will be published this year in 12 countries, including Israel – a decision that the novelist had difficulty in accepting. Last year, he was arrested and deported from the country after attempting to travel to the West Bank.
He said in his blog that he had considered a “cultural boycott” of Israel by not publishing his book in Hebrew, but decided instead to donate his entire fee to the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions, which opposes settlements on the West Bank.
Mr Filer said in his blog: “I do not believe that any amount of history, however fraught or complicated, can ever justify a human rights abuse today.
“I believe that Israel, beneath the thinnest veneer of international respectability, is perpetrating an apartheid similar to that witnessed in South Africa.”
Earlier this month, Mr Filer denied he was “anti-Israel”, but said: “I am anti the human rights abuses of the current Israeli government”.