The 2023 Wingate Literary Prize shortlist explores a diverse range of themes and subject matter this year, including World War II internment camps, the ‘proving’ of history and the wanderings of a self-proclaimed messiah. The shortlist is made up of 3 works of non-fiction and 4 fiction titles.
Now in its 46th year, the annual prize, worth £4,000 and run in association with JW3, is awarded to the best book, fiction or non-fiction, to translate the idea of Jewishness to the general reader.
The 7 shortlisted books are:
The Man Who Sold Air in the Holy Land by Omer Friedlander. John Murray
The characters in The Man Who Sold Air in the Holy Land, a collection of short stories, are funny and tragic, guilt-stricken and complex, naive and disillusioned: a kaleidoscope of life and colour in Israel.
Come to this Court and Cry by Linda Kinstler. Bloomsbury Circus
The extraordinary story of the author’s search for the facts about her grandfather, a member of the Latvian death squads during WWII. It’s about Jewish identity, Holocaust revisionism, and whether justice can ever be found.
The Island of Extraordinary Captives by Simon Parkin. Sceptre
As relevant today as in the 1940s when it is set, The Island of Extraordinary Captives chronicles the refugees, many of them artists and anti-Nazi activists, who were imprisoned in British internment camps on the Isle of Man, betrayed by the country they hoped would save them.
The Memory Monster by Yishai Sarid (trans Yardenne Greenspan). Serpent’s Tail Although short, The Memory Monster packs a punch: it’s an allegorical and thought-provoking novella about the Holocaust industry, generational trauma, the power of hate and our duty to remember.
The Books of Jacob by Olga Tokarczuk (trans Jennifer Croft). Fitzcarraldo Editions
An impressive, well-researched and immersive book charting the life and times of 18th century self-proclaimed Jewish messiah Jacob Frank. The prose is sinuous and the world-building is breathtaking.
In the Midst of Civilised Europe by Jeffrey Veidlinger. Picador
A virtuoso analysis of how the violence of the pogroms created the climate in which the Holocaust was made possible. Immaculately researched and powerfully argued, its careful prose confronts unbearable cruelty with both empathy and clear-sightedness.
Tomorrow and Tomorrow and Tomorrow by Gabrielle Zevin. Chatto
A loving tribute to computer gaming, but the games are merely a metaphor for the richly emotional inner lives and intersecting identities of the main characters, one Jewish and one Jewish-Korean.
This year’s judging panel is comprised of the chair, Dr Aviva Dautch, Executive Director of Jewish Renaissance, Guggenheim Fellow and National Jewish Book Award winner George Prochnik, journalist, editor and author Sarah Shaffi and award winning author Julie Cohen.
Dr Aviva Dautch says:
‘It was an extremely high-quality longlist, which made whittling down to a shortlist of seven particularly difficult. After a thorough discussion, considering the remit of the prize to select a book that translates Jewish experience to the general reader, we settled on a wonderfully diverse range of fiction and non-fiction.
We judges have found reading all these books to be an enriching and thought-provoking experience and are particularly delighted to see new voices emerging alongside eminent historians and Nobel laureates.’
The winner of the Wingate Prize will be announced at an event at JW3 on 12 March.
Follow the Wingate Literary Prize on Twitter @Wingateprize