Linda Grant has won the 2020 Wingate Literary Prize for A Stranger City (Virago), her "compelling love letter to London life".
Grant’s seventh novel was chosen from a shortlist which also included: Kafka's Last Trial: The Case of a Literacy Legacy by Benjamin Balint; Liar by Ayelet Gundar-Goshen; Live a Little by Howard Jacobson; Inheritance by Dani Shapiro; Lake Success by Gary Shteyngart and The Photographer at Sixteen by George Szirtes.
Now in its 43rd year, the Wingate Literary Prize, worth £4,000 and run in association with JW3, is awarded to "the best book"—fiction or non-fiction—"to translate the idea of Jewishness to the general reader". Previous winners have included Amos Oz, Zadie Smith, Oliver Sacks, Otto Dov Kulka and David Grossman
This year’s judging panel comprised novelist and lecturer Dr Roopa Farooki; educator, writer and broadcaster Clive Lawton OBE; past Wingate Prize-winner Philippe Sands QC, and novelist Kim Sherwood.
Lawton, chair of judges, called A Stranger City "a superb piece of writing about London life and its complexity" that "very much felt like a work for the 21st century and a coming of age for Jews in Britain". He meanwhile praised the shortlist it was chosen from as "diverse and impressive", full of books that would all have made worthy winners.
Expanding on the judging panel's choice in A Stranger City, he said: "As judges, we were looking for excellence in writing and we all agreed this was a beautifully written book. It managed a complex narrative, juggling a rich variety of characters, all portrayed within a London we all readily recognised."
Grant said on receiving the prize: "I have been writing books with Jewish themes since 1996, so it’s been a long wait to finally win this most prestigious prize. I know, from having been a judge myself in 1998, the immensely high standard of work submitted and this year was particularly daunting, I’ve read several of the books on the shortlist so I was stunned to have even been considered let alone awarded the prize.
“In A Stranger City I wanted to write about the unease about the times we are living in, of those with a historic memory of always having to move on, of displacement and a complex sense of what exactly a home is. It goes I think for all Jews, but Jews are not the whole story—other immigrants have arrived and they have their own reality. That’s what I wanted to write about. Thank you to the judges for this huge honour."
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