CHAPTER & VERSE
KERET ON TOP
ETGAR KERET is the winner of the 2008 Jewish Quarterly Wingate Literary Prize for his imaginative and mischievous collection of short stories, Missing Kissinger (Chatto & Windus). The 41-yearold Israeli writer and film-maker triumphed over Tom Segev, Philip Davis and Philippe Grimbert, and wins £4,000.
It was a free-ranging list. Segev’s book, 1967: Israel, the War and the Year that Transformed the Middle East, does what it says on the jacket, offering a dramatic narrative of the year in which the perception of Israel as valiant underdog was changed to that of uncompromising coloniser. Philip Davis won critical plaudits for his biography Bernard Malamud: A Writer’s Life, exploring the hinterland of the gritty and committed author of The Natural and The Fixer. Philippe Grimbert’s novel, Secret, based on an emotional discovery in his own family background, was a huge success in France.
In the awards ceremony in London on Wednesday, the judges’ chair Francine Stock admitted that the four books were of “distinct and frankly incomparable types.
“In the end,” Stock said, “we made our choice according to the criteria of the prize. Etgar Keret’s short stories are not only of literary merit; they do truly ‘stimulate an awareness of and interest in themes of Jewish concern among the wider reading public’.”
Judging along with Francine Stock were actress Janet Suzman, writer and critic Norman Lebrecht and playwright Bernard Kops. A distinguished panel, but not completely in tune with the popular vote, it seems. In a new departure, the Jewish Community Centre for London invited members of the reading public to offer their views on the shortlist, and this process saw Grimbert coming top.