Is­rael prize for lit­er­a­ture for critic Gross­man

The Witness - - BOOKS & ENTERTAINMENT -

IS­RAEL’s na­tional prize for lit­er­a­ture, one of its most pres­ti­gious hon­ours, is to be awarded this year to novelist David Gross­man — an out­spo­ken critic of Is­rael’s pol­icy to­wards the Pales­tini­ans.

Gross­man (64) has ex­pressed sup­port for Is­raeli con­sci­en­tious ob­jec­tors, cre­ation of a Pales­tinian state and the need to avoid war with Iran over its nu­clear pro­gramme.

An­nounc­ing the award on Mon­day, Ed­u­ca­tion Min­is­ter Naf­tali Ben­nett, an ul­tra­na­tion­al­ist, de­scribed the Jerusalem­born novelist as “one of the most ex­cit­ing pro­found and in­flu­en­tial voices in Is­raeli lit­er­a­ture”.

Gross­man, who won the 2017 Man Booker In­ter­na­tional Prize for fic­tion, will re­ceive the Is­rael Prize on In­de­pen­dence Day in April, Ben­nett said, de­scrib­ing the de­ci­sion as a move to­wards rec­on­cil­i­a­tion in a coun­try with deep di­vides over mat­ters of war and peace.

“I dis­agree with the au­thor, David Gross­man, po­lit­i­cally,” Ben­nett said in pub­lic re­marks to mem­bers of his Jewish Home party. “But he’s not an au­thor of the left wing and I am not ed­u­ca­tion min­is­ter of the right wing. I am ed­u­ca­tion min­is­ter for all the State of Is­rael ... the time has come to heal the rifts.”

Gross­man’s books have been trans­lated into more than 35 lan­guages. They in­clude A Horse Walks into A Bar, about a fic­tional stand­up co­me­dian and the ghosts of his past, andTo the End of the Land, a novel de­pict­ing a soldier’s mother trekking across Is­rael to avoid hear­ing pos­si­ble news of his death.

The au­thor’s own son was killed in fight­ing in the 2006 Le­banon war.

In ar­ti­cles for the left­wing Haaretz news­pa­per, Gross­man wrote that Is­rael’s mil­i­tary had cul­ti­vated “in­jus­tice, op­pres­sion and the killing of civil­ians and chil­dren in the oc­cu­pied ter­ri­to­ries”, ar­eas Is­rael cap­tured in a 1967 war and where Pales­tini­ans seek to es­tab­lish a state.

In 2015, he with­drew in protest from con­sid­er­a­tion for that year’s Is­rael Prize af­ter Prime Min­is­ter Ben­jamin Ne­tanyahu re­moved sev­eral of the judges, ac­cus­ing them of be­ing “ex­trem­ist and anti­Zion­ist”.

Gross­man, speak­ing on Is­rael Ra­dio on Mon­day, voiced sur­prise he had been cho­sen.

“I don’t know who was on the com­mit­tee that picked me, I have no idea, but it was a choice that was to the point, [based] on artis­tic and lit­er­ary cri­te­ria,” Gross­man said.

The an­nounce­ment came at a time of strained re­la­tions be­tween lead­ing fig­ures in Is­rael’s artis­tic com­mu­nity and the gov­ern­ment’s hawk­ish cul­ture min­is­ter, Miri Regev.

Last month, Regev pub­licly ex­pressed re­lief that an Is­raeli movie she saw as ma­lign­ing the mil­i­tary did not win a for­eign­lan­guage Os­car nom­i­na­tion.

PHOTO: SUP­PLIED

David Gross­man has ex­pressed sup­port for Is­raeli con­sci­en­tious ob­jec­tors.

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