The long-list for the 2020 Wingate Prize for Jewish literature has been announced, with books by Howard Jacobson and Linda Grant among the dozen in the running.
Both fiction and non-fiction are considered for the £4,000 prize which is awarded to the best book to “translate the idea of Jewishness to the general reader,” and this week’s 12 were whittled down from 70 entries.
Jacobson’s ‘Live a Little’ has been described as a “bitterly funny observation of the terror and humiliations of falling in love in old age” while Grant’s ‘A Stranger City’ is a portrait of Brexit-wracked London.
Both books have a tangible Jewish connection – Grant’s character ‘Francesca’ has Persian Jewish grandparents, while Jacobson’s book follows a character called Shimi Carmelli in Finchley.
Other authors to make the long list include Alba Arikha, Benjamin Balint, Nathan Englander, Ayalet Gundar-Goshen, Jacques Semelin, Dan Shapiro, Gary Shteyngart, Magda Szabo, Georges Szirtes and Eric Vuillard.
Themes for the 2020 prize were summed up as “identity, loss, love and last chances” with the judging panel comprising novelists Roopa Farooki and Kim Sherwood, educator and panel chair Clive Lawton, and human rights lawyer Philippe Sands QC.
Lawton said: “It remains very heartening that there are so many books published each year that contain aspects of Jewish insights. We put aside many books that we judges are still promising ourselves we will want to read again at more leisure.”
The long-list includes topics ranging from the plight of French Jewry during the war to “the quotidian-reality of ever-increasing elderly age for so many of us,” as Lawton explained that the panel asked itself: would we recommend this to friends?
The short list will be announced in early February and the winner will be announced at an event at the JW3 culture centre on 16 March 2020.