History and memoir titles dominate JQ-Wingate Prize

History and memoir titles dominate JQ-Wingate Prize

Simon Schama (pictured), Gary Shteyngart and Thomas Harding are among the authors longlisted for the JQ-Wingate Literary Prize.

The £4,000 annual prize is awarded to the best book, fiction or non-fiction, to translate the idea of Jewishness to the general reader.

This year’s longlist of 15 is dominated by history and memoir, including Schama’s The Story of the Jews: Finding the Words (1000 BCE – 1492) (Bodley Head); Shteyngart’s memoir Little Failure (Penguin); and Hanns and Rudolf: The German Jew and the Hunt for the Kommandant of Auschwitz by Harding (Heinemann).

Also on the list are Red Love by Maxim Leo (Pushkin Press), translated by Shaun Whiteside, about the author’s family; Chasing the King of Hearts by Hanna Krall (Peirene), a memoir about Auschwitz translated into English by Philip Boehm for the first time; Rachel Cohen’s biography of art dealer and connoisseur Bernard Berenson, Berenson: Life in the Picture Trade (Yale); Scattered Ghosts by Nick Barlay (Tauris), about 200 years of his Hungarian Jewish family; and Jews in Poland and Russia by Antony Polonsky (Littman Library).

There are two histories of Israel, Ilan Pappe’s The Idea of Israel (Verso) and Ari Shavit’s My Promised Land (Scribe).

Two novels about family and memory, Zeruya Shalev’s Remains of Love (Bloomsbury), translated by Philip Simpson, and Michel Laub’s Diary of the Fall (Harvill), translated by Margaret Jull Costa, also make the list. Laub is one of Granta’s “Best of Young Brazilian Novelists”.

Completing the list is Eryn Green’s poetry collection Eruv (Yale); Josh Cohen’s The Private Life (Granta), about the concept of a ‘private life’; and Netanya (Dalkey Archive), a novel by Dror Burstein translated by Todd Hasak-Lowy.

Gabriel Josipovici, chair of the judges, said: “This has been an exceptional year for history and for memoir, which is reflected in our longlist, where fiction and poetry make up barely a third of the books. And so high has been the standard that even selecting a longlist has been a fraught and difficult business, with the judges arguing long and hard and some excellent work in all categories not even making it this far.”

Director of the prize, Rachel Lasserson said: “This generation of writers was born into stories of epic scale. Our longlist reflects their struggle to make sense of these huge stories.”

The shortlist will be announced on 13th January, with the winner announced on 4th March.