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Wingate Literary Prize

Sebald and Sacks scoop top honours
at the 25th Jewish Quarterly Wingate Literary Prizes

W.G. Sebald and Oliver Sacks were tonight, (Thursday 2 May 2002), named winners of the Jewish Quarterly Wingate Literary Prize 2002.

W.G. Sebald’s novel Austerlitz won the Fiction award and Sacks’ childhood memoir, Uncle Tungsten, took the Non-Fiction prize.

This is the fourth prestigious prize Sebald has won since his tragic death; he was awarded the National Book Critic’s Circle Award for Fiction 2001, the Koret Jewish Book Award 2001 and The Independent’s  Foreign Fiction Prize 2002. Austerlitz was also shortlisted for this year’s W H Smith Literature Award.

Resident in the UK for over forty years, Sebald was a distinguished scholar and academic, described by the Observer’s Robert McCrum as ‘one of the most original writers at work in England today’. The literary world was stunned when, aged 57, he was killed in a head-on collision near his Norfolk home. Austerlitz was entered for the Jewish Quarterly Wingate Literary Prize prior to his untimely death; a poignant accolade for an author who was in the prime of his literary life.

Professor Oliver Sacks is a world famous neurologist and author. Born and educated in London, he is the author of many books including Awakenings and The Man who Mistook his Wife for a Hat and is the recipient of numerous other literary awards. Uncle Tungsten is a childhood memoir and tells of the largely scientific family who fostered his early fascination with metals. Fellow scientist Stephen Jay Gould decribed Uncle Tungsten as ‘a gift from a wonderful man and a masterful scholar and writer’.

The book also describes Sacks’ unhappy yet formative years at boarding school where he developed the intellectual curiosity that would shape his life.

Now in their 25th year, the Jewish Quarterly Wingate Literary Prizes are the only awards in the UK to recognise major works of Jewish interest.

The prizegiving ceremony took place in the Arts Club in central London and was attended by over 60 key figures in the publishing industry, book trade and Jewish literary community.

Memoirs were the dominant genre for the Non-Fiction shortlist, while the Fiction list was, in the judges’ minds, the strongest for many years.

The winners of the Jewish Quarterly Wingate Literary Prize each receive a cheque for £4,000 and the three shortlisted runners-up in each category receive £300 each.

Martyn Goff OBE, Chairman of the Judges, commented:

‘ The remarkable standard of entries speaks for itself. Choosing two winners from such a phenomenal shortlist was a real challenge. We were honoured to have had the opportunity to read some wonderfully written books and hope this will encourage others to do the same ’.

The titles selected for the shortlist were:

Author Title Publisher
Agnes Desarthe Five Photos of My Wife Flamingo
Zvi Jagendorf Wolfy and the Strudelbakers Dewi Lewis
Emma Richler Sister Crazy Flamingo
W.G. Sebald Austerlitz Hamish Hamilton
Author Title Publisher
John Gross A Double Thread Chatto & Windus
Joseph Roth The Wandering Jews Granta
Oliver Sacks Uncle Tungsten Picador
Mihail Sebastian Journal 1935-44

William Heinemann

In a particularly strong year for fiction, the shortlisted books transport the reader into contrasting worlds; comic, haunting and ironic by turn. The tragically recent death of W.G Sebald on the fiction shortlist makes the final selection all the more poignant.

Memoir is the dominant genre for this year’s non-fiction shortlist and the selected titles each evoke a vivid, moving image of childhood.

Martyn Goff, Award Chairman, comments:

The remarkable standard of entries this year speaks for itself. With the phenomenal proportion of hits to misses, narrowing the list of contenders down to eight books was a real challenge. We were honoured to have had the opportunity to read some wonderfully written books and hope that our experience will encourage others to read them’

The winners of the Jewish Quarterly Wingate Prize will be announced on May 2nd at an awards ceremony to take place at the Arts Club. The Fiction and Non-Fiction Prize are each worth £4,000 and three shortlisted runners-up in each category are awarded £300 each.

Details of the eight titles on the shortlist are attached to this release.

Notes to Editors

  • Established in 1977 by the late Harold Hyam Wingate, the Jewish Quarterly

Wingate Literary Prize is now in its 25th year. The prizes for fiction and non-fiction are worth £4,000 to each category winner; with £300 also awarded for the three shortlisted runners-ups in each category, the awards have a total prize value of almost £10,000.

  • The judges of the Jewish Quarterly Wingate Literary Prizes may be available for interview. Please contact Shona Abhyankar or Dotti Irving at Colman Getty PR on 020 7631 2666 or email
  • A list of former winners is available from Colman Getty PR.
  • Jewish and non-Jewish authors resident in the UK, British Commonwealth, Europe and Israel are eligible. Books submitted must be in English, either originally or in translation.
  • Published in London since 1953, The Jewish Quarterly is one of the foremost literary and cultural journals in the English language. Its spectrum of subjects includes art, criticism, fiction, film, history, Judaism, literature, poetry, philosophy, politics, theatre, the Shoah and Zionism.
  • The Harold Hyam Wingate Charitable Foundation is a private grant-giving institution, first established more than forty years ago. It has supported the Jewish Quarterly Wingate Literary Prizes for 20 years, and, since 1989, has also organised and supported the Wingate Scholarships.

    For further information and interview requests, please contact:
    Colman Getty PR
    Middlesex House, 34-42 Cleveland St
    London W1T 4JE
    Tel : 020 7631 2666
    Fax: 020 7631 2699

Background information on this year’s judging panel is attached

The Jewish Quarterly Wingate Literary Prizes 2002

The Judges

Martyn Goff OBE (Chair) has been a key figure in the publishing industry for more than 30 years. He is Executive Chairman of Henry Sotheran Ltd, chief administrator of the Booker Prize for Fiction, chairman of Books for Keeps, The National Life Story Collection, The Wingate Scholarships and The London Writer’s Competition (in association with Wandsworth Council and Waterstone’s), Trustee of the National Literacy Trust, and Vice President of Book Trust and the Royal Overseas League. Martyn Goff lives in London.

Rosie Boycott is a respected journalist, author and broadcaster and former editor of the Independent on Sunday and the Daily Express. In January 2002 she began presenting a BBC2 religious programme based on morals and ethics. Rosie Boycott lives in London.

Kimberly Fortier is publisher and chief executive of The Spectator magazine and former Communications and Marketing Director for Conde Nast UK. She hails originally from Los Angeles and studied History and English at Vassar University. A respected journalist, she writes for several publications including Vogue, Evening Standard, The Independent, The Wall Street Journal, The Times, The Daily Telegraph and Erotic Review. Kimberly Fortier lives in London.

Boyd Tonkin has been Literary Editor of The Independent since 1996 and also broadcasts regularly on various BBC radio arts programmes. He taught English in higher and adult education before becoming a journalist. He went on to become Features Editor at Community Care magazine before joining the New Statesman as social policy editor. He became Literary Editor at the New Statesman in 1991 and also wrote on books and the arts for a range of newspapers and magazines, including The Observer. Boyd Tonkin lives in London.

Rabbi William Wolff is minister of Wimbledon & District Synagogue and will soon take up the position of regional rabbi in North East Germany. He has previously served Reform and Liberal communities in Brighton, Reading, Milton Keynes and Newcastle upon Tyne, and started his career in the rabbinate as an assistant to Rabbi Hugo Gryn at the West London Synagogue. Before qualifying at Leo Baeck College as a rabbi he was a Fleet Street journalist. Rabbi Wolff lives in Henley, Oxfordshire.




W G Sebald - Hamish Hamilton £16.99M.

W. G Sebald was killed in a road accident on 14 December 2001. Resident in England for almost forty years, he will be remembered as a literary scholar and distinguished academic. Austerlitz was entered for this year’s Jewish Quarterly Wingate Literary Prize prior to his untimely death.

Summer 1939. Five-year-old Jacques Austerlitz is sent to England on one of the so-called Kindertransports and placed with Calvinist foster parents in Wales. For reasons unknown, the child is denied all knowledge of his true identity. He eventually becomes an architectural historian and goes through life carefully avoiding any clues that may shed light on his origins and the fate of his real parents. It is only in retirement that the past returns to haunt him and Jacques Austerlitz is forced to explore what really happened half a century ago.

W G Sebald was born in Wertach im Allg”u, Germany in 1944. He studied German language and literature in Freiburg, Switzerland and Manchester and took up permanent residence in England in 1970 whilst working as an assistant lecturer at the University of Manchester. He was Professor of English Literature at the University of East Anglia, and his other works of fiction are The Emigrants, which won many awards including the Berlin Literature Prize, the Heinrich B–ll Prize, the Heinrich Heine Prize and the Joseph Breitbach Prize; The Rings of Saturn and Vertigo.

Press Contact: Charlotte Greig or Abbie Sampson at Hamish Hamilton on 020 7010 3279 or Email: /

Sister Crazy

Emma Richler Flamingo £12.99

Jemima Jem’ Weiss grew up with a fondness for Action Man, American westerns, bagels with cheddar on top, and, especially, her family - mother, father and four remarkable siblings. Sister Crazy tells of Jem’s struggle against dark times as she reflects on her days as a young girl and fights against the present. Jem has an incredible imagination, one that transforms her family into mythological beings. Sister Crazy chronicles her attempts to find her way alone in the real world.

Daughter of distinguished author Mordecai Richler, Emma Richler was born in London and spent some of her childhood in Montreal. After studying French literature at the University of Toronto and the UniversitÈ de Provence she trained as an actress in New York and then spent ten years in the UK working in theatre, film, television drama and BBC radio.

Emma Richler lives in London.

Press contact: Karen Duffy at Flamingo on 020 8307 4349 or

Wolfy and the Strudelbakers

Zvi Jagendorf Dewi Lewis Publishing £8.99

Set in wartime and post-war England, Wolfy and the Strudelbakers is a comic take on the disaster zone of displacement and exile. Wolfy lives near Arsenal Football Club with the strudelbakers’ - his super-critical aunt and melancholy uncle - in the bizarre world of refugees granted shelter from persecution. Wolfy observes his new world’ with a sharp eye; the bafflement of his English neighbours at the secretive, alien nature of his Jewish family and their comical traditions as they discover England through the blitz, evacuation, menial work, school reports and Christmas.

Zvi Jagendorf teaches English and Theatre Studies at the Hebrew University, Jerusalem. His short stories have been widely published and he contributes regular reviews to a broad range of magazines both in Israel and abroad.

Zvi Jagendorf was born in February 1936 in Vienna. He now lives in Israel.

Press contact: Dewi Lewis or Caroline Warhurst at Dewi Lewis Publishing on 0161 442 9450 or

Five Photos of My Wife<

Agnes Desarthe Flamingo £9.99

Max Opass is still reeling from his wife Telma’s death. His two grown-up children and their families live abroad and through a series of awkward letters to his daughter, we learn that Max has decided to have Telma’s portrait painted. He picks a few artists at random from the Yellow Pages and proceeds to commission them to paint Telma’s portrait using five snapshots of her for reference. The portraits do not go without incidence; one artist intimidates Max; another provokes sympathy; a pair of art students baffle him; and an elderly bridge player reveals more than a friendly interest in him. Through a series of confrontations it becomes clear that perhaps Max did not know Telma as well as he thought. Each encounter is at once moving and comic - just like Max himself.

AgnËs Desarthe is the author of two previous novels for adults, Un Secret sans Importance and Quelques Minutes du Bonher Absolu. Five Photos of My Wife is her first book to be translated into English. She lives in Paris with her husband, a filmmaker, and children.

Press contact: Karen Duffy at Flamingo on 020 8307 4349 or


A Double Thread

John Gross Chatto & Windus £18.99

A Double Thread is an evocative picture of a lost London. Full of memorable encounters and characters, it is essentially the story of an Mile End boy finding his way in literary life which makes for an unusual memoir. It is also a poignant reflection of an East End childhood spent living with two separate yet entwined legacies, Jewish and English.

John Gross is the theatre critic of the Sunday Telegraph and a former editor of The Times Literary Supplement. For many years he lived in New York and worked on the New Yorker as a staff writer. His previous works include The Rise and Fall of Letters and Shylock: One Hundred Years in the Life of Legend. He has edited several anthologies including The Oxford Book of Essays and The Oxford Book of English Prose.

John Gross lives in London, SW3.

Press contact: Patrick Hargadon at Chatto & Windus on 020 7840 8540 or

Uncle Tungsten

Oliver Sacks Picador £17.99

A personal account of a childhood, Uncle Tungsten is a memoir of wartime England. Sacks tells of the largely scientifically minded family who fostered his early fascination with metals, and then the unhappy yet formative years at boarding school, where he developed the intellectual curiosity that would shape his life. The reader hears of his return to London as an emotionally bereft ten year old who finds solace in his passion for learning about metals, gases and chemicals - the hidden order of things outside himself.

Oliver Sacks was born in London and educated in London, Oxford and California. He is a neurologist working in New York City, where he is also clinical professor of neurology at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine, and adjunct professor of neurology at the NYU School of Medicine. Oliver Sacks has won numerous awards for his writing including the Hawthornden Prize, a Polk Award and a Guggenheim fellowship. His previous books include Awakenings and The Man who Mistook his Wife for a Hat.

Press contact: Jacqueline Graham at Picador on 020 7014 6181 or

The Wandering Jews

Joseph Roth Granta £6.99

In The Wandering Jews, Roth’s first translation into English, he sets out to explore the Jewish communities scattered across Europe. With his trademark journalistic style, Roth brings back reports of hope, poverty, fear and persecution. He witnessed the twilight years of the shtetls and schools of Eastern Europe, and foresaw the dangers posed by extreme German nationalism.

Joseph Roth was born in 1894 in, what was then, the Hapsburg Empire. After studying in Lemberg and Vienna, he served for a while with the Austrio-Hungarian army on the Eastern Front - though possibly only as an army journalist or censor. He moved to Berlin where he wrote for the Frankfurter Zeitung. When the Nazis took power in Germany, Roth severed all ties with Germany. He lived in Paris, Amsterdam and Ostend and descended into a life of heavy drinking and money worries. His works of fiction include The Spider’s Web, Hotel Savoy and Rebellion.

Joseph Roth died in Paris in 1939.

Press contact: Louise Campbell at Granta on 7354 4236 or

Journal 1935- 44

Mihail Sebastian William Heinemann £20

Journal 1935-44 is a chronicle of the darkest years of European anti-Semitism as well as an analysis of social life, a writer’s notebook and a music-lover’s journal. Some may see it as an account of the major Romanian intellectuals who were Sebastian’s friends, including Mircea Eliade and E.M Cioran - writers and thinkers who were mesmerized by the Nazi-fascist delirium of

Europe’s reactionary revolution’. Journal describes pre-war Bucharest, then affectionately known as Little Paris’.

Mihail Sebastian was the pen-name of the Romanian writer Iosif Hechter. Born in the Danube port of BrÂila, he was well known for his lyrical and ironic plays and for his urbane psychological novels.

Mihail Sebastian died in a road accident in 1945.

Press Contact: Emma Mitchell at William Heinemann on 020 7840 8610 or

For further information and interview requests, please contact:

Colman Getty PR
Middlesex House, 34-42 Cleveland St
London W1T 4JE
Tel : 020 7631 2666
Fax: 020 7631 2699

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