The Jewish Chronicle
Refugee’s memoir wins Wingate Prize
THE JQ Wingate literary prize for 2019 has been awarded to the rediscovered memoir of the late Jewish bookseller Françoise Frenkel, who escaped Berlin for France in 1939, before fleeing for Switzerland.
Described as “a found treasure… filled with wisdom and hope”, No Place to Lay One’s Head was first printed as part of a limited run in 1945. It was then forgotten until it was rediscovered in a car boot sale in southern France and republished in 2015. Its English version, translated by Stephanie Smee, was published in 2018, 43 years after the author’s death.
This year’s judging panel comprised past JQ Wingate Literary Prize winner Thomas Harding; bestselling children’s author Francesca Simon; JHub Director and JDOV founder Shoshana Boyd Gelfand; and critic and literary editor Arifa Akbar.
Chair of judges Shoshana Boyd Gelfand said: “No Place to Lay One’s Head captured our hearts on so many levels. It is the memoir of an extraordinary woman who set up the first French-language bookshop in Berlin soon after the First World War. This in itself would have made her a fascinating character and her story worth reading.
“Françoise Frenkel’s memoir was originally published in French in 1945 and then forgotten in the post-war haze. Only recently was a copy discovered by chance and translated to English. So this is not only a redemptive story of refugees and fleeing terror, but also a reminder that books too can cross borders and speak to new generations, if only they fall into the hands of those to whom the book is dedicated: men and women of good will.”
The winner was announced at an event at the JW3 Jewish community centre on Monday evening.The BBC’s Emily Kasriel chaired the event, and the book’s publisher Adam Freudenheim, of Pushkin Press, was also present.