Israeli writer Yaniv Iczkovits has won the 2021 Wingate Literary Prize for his historical novel The Slaughterman’s Daughter (MacLehose Press).
Described by critics as "highly relevant and resonant today", Iczkovits' third novel, translated by Orr Scharf, was chosen from a shortlist which also included House of Glass (HarperCollins) by Hadley Freeman, On Division by Goldie Goldbloom (Farrah, Straus & Giroux), Nobody Will Tell You This But Me by Bess Kalb (Little Brown), Apeirogon by Colum McCann (Bloomsbury), When Time Stopped by Ariana Neumann (Simon & Schuster) and We are the Weather (Hamish Hamilton) by Jonathan Safran Foer. Iczkovit will receive £4,000 in prize money.
Now in its 44th year, the prize is run association with JW3 (Jewish Community Centre London), and is awarded to the best book, fiction or non-fiction, to translate the idea of Jewishness to general readers.
This year’s judging panel was comprised of former Rabbi Laura Janner-Klausner, broadcaster, writer and film-maker Bidisha; author and Economist magazine culture editor A D Miller, and biographer and historian Anne Sebba.
The 2021 winner was announced during an online event featuring the BBC’s Emily Kasriel in conversation with the judges and the shortlisted authors.
After the announcement, chair of judges Rabbi Janner-Klausner said: “We were unanimous in our decision as judges that we loved this wonderful book, The Slaughterman’s Daughter. It is epic literature with an excellent translation. At the same time, it is also a fantastic, surprising romp through a really important part of Jewish history, with an amazingly unpredictable storyline.
"In a post-Holocaust world, reading a book about Jewish shtetl life which is at the same time, funny, shocking and entrancing, enables someone who is not Jewish to understand so much of what makes us tick. The Slaughterman’s Daughter is like your closest friend that you want to show off to everyone because you want people to see how special they are.”
Iczkovits said: “Reading some of the books on the longlist, I became certain that each of them is worthy. I was truly honoured to have even been shortlisted, so the joy of being awarded with the Wingate Prize is truly exceptional. I wish to thank the distinguished judges of the prize for walking alongside my characters on their wild journey. “A lot of readers asked me how I came by the idea to write The Slaughterman’s Daughter, a novel that is set in the shtetls of the 19th century, so far from the present. In this special moment, I can clearly see that it’s not an idea that made me write this book, but rather my Jewish roots which are located in several places on this globe. I wanted to tell a story about a lost world, but I realised that nothing is really lost. History and circumstances can destroy an entire civilisation. But character and determination, such as Fanny’s and Zizek’s, allow us to reimagine reality in different forms. I thank the judges of the Wingate Prize for allowing my protagonists to speak louder.”
Previous winners of the prize include Amos Oz, Zadie Smith, Oliver Sacks, Otto Dov Kulka and David Grossman.
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