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Wingate Literary Prize

Zadie Smith and Sebastian Haffner win top literary prize

Zadie Smith and Sebastian Haffner were named winners of the Jewish Quarterly Wingate Literary Prize 2003. Zadie Smith’s novel, The Autograph Man, won the Fiction award and Defying Hitler by Sebastian Haffner took the Non-Fiction prize. The two winners each receive a cheque for 4,000 and the four shortlisted runners-up in each category receive 300 each. The prize giving ceremony took place in the Arts Club in central London and was attended by over 75 key figures in the publishing industry, book trade and Jewish literary community.

The Jewish Quarterly Wingate Literary Prize is the latest in an impressive line-up of awards that Zadie Smith has won. The Autograph Man is an original look

at contemporary forms of Jewishness, and at Jewishness as a template of today's hybrid identities and multicultural societies. Her debut novel White Teeth won amongst many others, the Whitbread Award for a First Novel, The Guardian First Book Award, The WH Smith Book Award for New Talent, The Commonwealth Writers First Book Award and Overall Commonwealth Writers Prize. The Autograph Man described by The Independent as a glorious concoction written by our most beguiling and original prose-wizard was also longlisted for The Man Booker Prize for Fiction 2002.

When the famous German author Sebastian Haffner died at the age of ninety-one in 1999, a manuscript was discovered among his unpublished papers. The book was begun in 1939 but with the advent of World War II Haffner set it aside. After his death in 1999, his son Oliver Pretzel discovered the unfinished manuscript and translated it from the original German into English. His family made the decision to publish it and the result is Defying Hitler. Spanning the period from 1907 to 1933, it offers a unique perspective on the rise of Hitler and the growing influence of Nazism, and anticipates much of what was to unfold in the ensuing years. Defying Hitler is a highly illuminating portrait of a time, a place and a people. A brilliant, moving and terrifying evocation of the destruction of civilisation in Germany by the Nazis commented The Sunday Telegraph.

Now in their 26th year, the Jewish Quarterly Wingate Literary Prizes are awarded for Fiction and Non-Fiction and are worth 4,000 to each category winner and 300 for the four shortlisted runners-ups in each category. They are the only awards in the UK to celebrate and recognise the full variety and originality of major works of Jewish interest.

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.

The titles selected for this year’s shortlist were:

Fiction:

Title Author Publisher
Lovely Green Eyes Arnost Lustig Harvill
The Autograph Man Zadie Smith Penguin
The Gossamer Wall Micheal O’Siadhail Bloodaxe
The Song of Names Norman Lebrecht Review
The Strange Case of Dr Simmonds & Dr Glas Dannie Abse Robson

Non-Fiction:

Title Author Publisher
Defying Hitler Sebastian Haffner Weidenfeld & Nicolson
Impossible Love Roman Frister Weidenfeld & Nicolson
Primo Levi Ian Thomson Hutchinson
The Double Bond Carole Angier Viking Penguin
The Girl in the Red Coat Roma Ligocka Sceptre

The Judges for this year’s prize were Sir Jeremy Isaacs (Chairman), David Herman, Eva Hoffman, Jeremy Rosen and Martha Kearney. Background information on this year’s judging panel is attached.

After the judges had made their decision, Sir Jeremy Isaacs commented:

The panel, spoilt for choice, was never unanimous, but found two clear winners. Each captures a moment in the world’s time, and illuminates it for us. Zadie Smith’s The Autograph Man is of today. Her hero swims in the swirl of London’s multi-racial mix and match, and, somehow stays Jewish. An entertainingly contemporary tale. Sebastian Haffner’s Defying Hitler was written sixty years ago. He pins down with brilliant clarity the hour the Nazis came to Germany, and Germans, getting on with their lives, acquiesced in their coming. Dissenters fell silent, and went with the tide. Danger turned, overnight, to doom. One short volume says it all.’

The winning entries:

Fiction

The Autograph Man

Zadie Smith Hamish Hamilton 16.99

Alex-Li Tandem sells autographs. A small blip in a huge worldwide network of desire, it is his business to hunt for names on paper, collect them, sell them, occasionally fake them, and all to give the people what they want: a little piece of Fame. The Autograph Man is an existential tour around the hollow things of modernity - celebrity, cinema, and the ugly triumph of symbol over experience.

Zadie Smith was born in north-west London in 1975. She now lives in the US. The Autograph Man is her second novel. Her first novel, White Teeth, published in 2000 was the winner of the Whitbread First Novel Award, The James Tait Black Memorial Prize for Fiction and The Commonwealth Writer’s First Book Award and Overall Commonwealth Writers Prize.

Non Fiction

Defying Hitler

Sebastian Haffner Weidenfeld & Nicolson 14.99

Published for the first time in Great Britain and Ireland, this is a brilliantly observed memoir of growing up in Berlin between 1914 and 1933, which shows how this generation of German youth were seduced by Hitler and the Nazis. First published in Germany, it was a No. 1 bestseller there for 42 consecutive weeks. The reasons which made Haffner put this aside its rawness, its revelations, its closeness to the event it describes are precisely what makes it such compelling reading today.

Sebastian Haffner was born in Berlin in 1907. In 1938 he emigrated to England and a few years later began writing for The Observer. He returned to Germany in 1954 and became the best-selling author of, among other works, The Meaning of Hitler. He died in 1999. Defying Hitler was translated by his son, Oliver Pretzel.

The Judges

Sir Jeremy Isaacs (Chair) joined Granada Television as a producer in 1958 and worked on programmes such as What the Papers Say and Panorama for the BBC. He is probably best known for the historical documentaries made for British television, such as The World At War, Ireland: A Television History and Cold War. Isaacs also produced A Sense Of Freedom, based on the book by reformed murderer Jimmy Boyle. He was Director of Programmes at Thames Television and, from 1981-87, the first Chief Executive of Channel Four Television. Between 1988 and 1996 Isaacs was General Director of the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden. He has won numerous BAFTA awards, international Emmies and was president of the Royal Television Society from 1997 to 2000. Sir Jeremy is currently chairman of Artsworld.

David Herman is a television and radio producer and writer. Over almost twenty years David has worked on Start the Week (Radio 4), The Late Show (BBC 2), Face to Face (BBC 2), Voices (Channel 4) and Madness (a documentary series with Jonathan Miller, BBC2). Most recently, he has produced Isaiah Berlin (BBC 2), The Sundays (Channel 4), The Trial of Freedom (Channel 4) and Whose Right is it Anyway? (ITV). David is a regular contributor to Prospect, The Independent, The New Statesman and The Jewish Chronicle. He has written for The Jewish Quarterly for twenty years.

Eva Hoffman grew up in Cracow, Poland. After emigrating to Canada in her teens, she went on to study in the United States and receive her Ph.D. in English and American Literature from Harvard University. She has written for the New York Times as a literary critic, taught literature and creative writing in various universities in the U.S and Britain and is the author of a number of books including The Secret, Lost and Translation: A Life in a New Language, Exit Into History: A Journey Through the New Eastern Europe, Shtetl: The History of a Small Town and an Extinguished World. She has received numerous grants and awards, including a Guggenheim Fellowship, a prize from the American Academy of Arts and Letters and a Whiting Award for Writing. Eva holds a regular appointment as Visiting Professor at the Department of Foreign Languages and Literatures at MIT.

Martha Kearney is political editor of BBC TV’s Newsnight, and has quickly developed a reputation as one of the BBC’s most high-flying political journalists. Martha joined Newsnight in 1994, having previously been a reporter for BBC1’s On the Record, since 1988. In 1998 Martha was nominated for a BAFTA for her coverage of the Northern Ireland peace process. As well as her Newsnight appearances, Martha is also a regular presenter for the Today programme, The Talkshow for BBC4 and is a presenter of BBC4’s Woman’s Hour. In 2000 she was nominated, with Jenni Murray, for the Sony Radio Award for News and Talk Broadcasting, and in 2001 Martha won the Sony Radio Bronze award.

Rabbi Jeremy Rosen is the director of YAKAR in London and Professor at the Faculty for Comparative Religion (F.V.G) in Antwerp. He studied philosophy at Cambridge University and received his rabbinic ordination from the heads of Mir Yeshiva in Jerusalem and Ponevez in Bnei Brak. Jeremy has served as rabbi in orthodox congregations in Bulawayo, Glasgow and London. He was Headmaster and Principal of Carmel College for fourteen years and has been involved in Jewish Education at the European Commission in Brussels through CEJI (Centre Europeen Juif d’Information). He has worked as an Educational and Rabbinical Consultant in New York and still lectures there regularly. His book on Jewish theology Exploding myths that Jews Believe was published by Jason Aaronson in New York in 1991. Jeremy moved back to London in 1991 to take over YAKAR and to write his weekly column for London Jewish News.


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