Philippe Sands and Ayelet Gundar-Goshen have been chosen as joint winners of the 2017 Jewish Quarterly Wingate literary prize.
Sands’ part-memoir, part documentary East West Street; On the Origins of Crimes Against Humanity and Gundar-Goshen’s novel Waking Lions, translated by Sondra Silverston, resonated with the judges as they both explore what it means to be human today.
Celebrating its 40th anniversary this year, the annual JQ-Wingate prize, run in partnership with JW3 and worth £4000, is awarded to the best book or books – fiction or non-fiction – of Jewish interest for the general reader.
This year’s judging panel, award-winning playwright Amy Rosenthal; Granta Best of British Young Novelist Joanna Kavenna; Jewish Quarterly Literary Editor and translator and 2016 Scott Moncrieff prize winner Natasha Lehrer and Professor of Modern Literature Bryan Cheyette, described the two winning books as works which both ‘explore human rights, Jewish ethics and the refugee question in complementary ways’.
Chair of judges Prof Cheyette said: ‘Sands has undertaken a forensic exploration of how you can bring barbarism to account under law to challenge it and banish it, whereas in Gundar-Goshen’s novel we enter a world where barbarism exists side by side with civilization.
‘The judges enjoyed both books immensely. East West Street is such a tremendously accomplished and beautifully written work, important on so many levels as a memoir, a history of the term genocide and of why human rights are crucial today. Waking Lions is an incredibly compelling and enjoyable read which tackles an unsettling issue which engages with the ethical core of present-day Israel.’
Speaking in response to winning the prize, Philippe Sands commented: ‘It is a humbling privilege to be awarded the JQ-Wingate Prize, all the more so in its 40th year, and alongside Ayelet Gundar-Goshen, whose work I so deeply admire and enjoy.
‘East West Street is an intensely personal book, written with a multitude of purposes. In the writing I can hardly claim that it was my intention to offer an idea of Jewishness to a general reader, but I can see how in the result that consequence might have arisen. Leon, Lauterpacht and Lemkin were remarkable individuals, each experiencing a long period of deep darkness simply because they happened to belong to the wrong group, yet somehow managing to find a crack of light. Perhaps it is that universal theme – needed once again in these days – that is so very Wingate.’
Ayelet Gundar-Goshen said: ‘I am happy and honoured to be one of the winners of this year’s prize. The Jewish culture is a huge mountain, more than 2000 years old, and I’m pleased to be a grain of sand on this mountain.’
On the short-list alongside Sands and Gundar-Goshen’s books, were The Crime and the Silence by Anna Bikont, translated by Alissa Valles; Final Solution: The Fate of the Jews 1933-1949 by David Cesarani; and All for Nothing by Walter Kempowski, translated by Anthea Bell.
This year’s winner was announced on February 23 at JW3 during an event, in association with Jewish Book Week, to mark 40 years of the JQ-Wingate Prize. Past and present day judges, Andrew Franklin, Baroness Julia Neuberger, Francesca Segal and Bryan Cheyette joined journalist and Wingate trustee Emily Kasriel to discuss ‘What Makes a Book Jewish?’. A further anniversary event on April 2, at JW3, will see writer and broadcaster Tim Samuels launching a new book club, The Lit Café Book Club, to celebrate past prize winners. Click here for more information.
The Jewish Quarterly Wingate Prize is the only UK literary prize of its kind and attracts nominations from all over the globe. Previous winners include Amos Oz, Zadie Smith, Oliver Sacks, Otto Dov Kulka and David Grossman.