Longlist of 13 books up for JQ Wingate Prize 2019
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Longlist of 13 books up for JQ Wingate Prize 2019

Seven novels and six non-fiction books to be considered for the prestigious £4,000 prize , including two diaries from the Second World War

The authors and book covers of the longlisted candidates
The authors and book covers of the longlisted candidates

A baker’s dozen of books have been long-listed for the Jewish world’s literary prize early next year, including two diaries from the Second World War.

The 13 books to make it through to the JQ Wingate Prize 2019 shortlisting process comprise seven novels and six non-fiction books, with “Israel, history, family and faith” all described as “recurring leitmotifs”.

The £4,000 prize money is awarded in February to the author most able to “translate the idea of Jewishness to the general reader” and among the selection this year are two sets of war diaries, with judges saying they recognised the importance of soldiers’ voices, 100 years after the end of the First World War.

“The panel felt that both these lost voices from the past deserved to be recognised and heard again,” said J-Hub director Shoshana Boyd-Gelfand, who is chairing the judges’ panel this year.

One of the two diaries is from Léon Werth, who wrote about living secretly in Nazi-occupied France from 1940-44, including witnessing the Paris insurrection in August 1944. It has now been translated and published in English for the first time.

Among the works of fiction is a selection of letters from Israeli author Yossi Klein Halevi to his imagined Palestinian neighbour “about who we are, why we see ourselves as indigenous to this land, and what is our shared future in the region”.

Among Boyd-Gelfand’s fellow judges is ‘Hanns and Rudolf’ author Thomas Harding, ‘Horrid Henry’ children’s author Francesca Simon, and literary editor Arifa Akbar.

“Part of the joy and challenge of judging the prize is the diversity of the books that meet the criteria and this year’s entries certainly didn’t disappoint on that front, said Boyd-Gelfand.

She said the novels were “vastly different in terms of themes, settings and style” but all had “a profound message,” while the six non-fiction books were “even more diverse… They brought a unique and fresh approach to their subject matter, whether that was contemporary Israel or Jewish family life”.

She added: “If there is one overriding theme it is the breadth and diversity of Jewish identity which is looked at through various lenses by our authors. We hope this list will encourage readers to connect and explore their own questions around the richness and diversity of Jewish identity.”

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