The bestselling Israeli writer and his translator Jessica Cohen won the prize for A Horse Walks Into a Bar, announced this evening at a ceremony in London.
The novel, Grossman’s eleventh, takes place during the final performance of stand-up comedian Dovaleh Gee—a public disintegration in awful jokes and off-color comedy designed to interrogate a particularly painful moment from his past. It is only the latest award in a richly decorated career for the author, and was picked from among a shortlist of five other works, which had been announced on April 20.
The other writer rewarded is Jessica Cohen, who was born in Colchester, England but raised in Jerusalem, and now lives in Colarado. She is an experienced Hebrew translator, and has worked with other major Israeli writers and filmmakers, such as Etgar Keret, Tom Segev, and Ari Folman. She also translated Grossman’s last two novels, Falling Out of Time and To the End of the Land.
The prize, founded in 2005, this year read 126 books before deciding on the so-called ‘Man Booker Dozen,’ from which the shortlist was chosen. The writers Daniel Hahn, Elif Şafak, Chika Unigwe, and Helen Mort were the judges, with Nick Barley, director of the Edinburgh International Book Festival acting as the panel’s chair. He made the following statement about the winner:
“David Grossman has attempted an ambitious high-wire act of a novel, and he’s pulled it off spectacularly. A Horse Walks into a Bar shines a spotlight on the effects of grief, without any hint of sentimentality. The central character is challenging and flawed, but completely compelling. We were bowled over by Grossman’s willingness to take emotional as well as stylistic risks: every sentence counts, every word matters in this supreme example of the writer’s craft.”
Every year, The Man Booker International Prize is awarded to a fiction work translated into English and published in the UK, with the winning work’s author and translator(s) sharing the UK£50,000 (around US$64,000) prize equally.
The winner last year was The Vegetarian by Han Kang (translated by Deborah Smith); according to statistic from Nielsen Book, there has been a 400% publishing rise in translated fiction from Korea since it was announced. Bodes well for Israeli fiction then, doesn’t it?