David Grossman, winner of the prestigious Man Booker International Prize

Israeli author David Grossman won the prestigious British Man Booker International Prize in London on Wednesday for A horse walks into a bar, a painful portrait of Israeli society.

The Man Booker International Prize, which rewards a foreign work translated into English and published in the United Kingdom, is one of the most prestigious literary prizes in the world. It is the first time that an Israeli author has won it.

The novel has been translated into English under the title A Horse Walks Into a Bar by Briton Jessica Cohen, whose “extraordinary” translation was “hailed by the jury,” said jury president Nick Barley.

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“David Grossman attempted an ambitious high-flying act with this novel and he succeeded in spectacular fashion,” added Nick Barley.

“We were blown away by Mr. Grossman’s willingness to take both emotional and stylistic risks: every sentence counts, every word is important in this supreme example of the writing profession,” he said.

Israeli writer David Grossman at a leftist rally in Tel Aviv, August 17, 2014 (Gali Tibbon / AFP)

A horse walks into a bar, the beginning of a joke that the reader will never know the fall of, is the first novel of the Israeli writer since the death of his son, Uri, who died in 2006 in Lebanon during his military service. After this tragedy, which occurred as David Grossman was finishing the writing ofA woman running away from the ad, winner in France of the Foreign Medici Prize in 2011, the writer had published only one story in the form of a poem, Fallen out of time.

The novel was preferred to five other works: Compass from French Mathias Enard, Mirror, Shoulder, Signal from Danish Dorthe Nors (not translated into French), Judas by Israeli Amos Oz, Fever Dream from Argentina Samanta Schweblin (not translated into French) and The Invisibles by Norwegian Roy Jacobsen.

Since last year, the prize has been awarded jointly to the author and the translator. Jessica Cohen and David Grossman will therefore share a check for 50,000 pounds, this distinction above all ensuring worldwide notoriety and record sales.

Cohen was born in England, raised in Israel and now lives in Denver. She has translated Grossman but also Etgar Keret, Rutu Modan, Dorit Rabinyan and other authors.

In his acceptance speech for the award at the Victoria & Albert Museum in London, Cohen was not afraid to share his perspective on events in Israel. “I’m not going to waste my time hoping for change from the current government of Israel, but I hope Israelis and Palestinians can together rekindle the humanism and empathy they still have left.” , did she say.

Cohen then announced that she would donate half of the sum of her prize to the leftist association B’Tselem. “It is not easy to speak unflattering and uncomfortable truths, and it is certainly not easy to hear them, but it is essential, not only in literature but in life, and I hope that organizations like B’Tselem may continue to do so, ”she said.

# MBI2017 winner announcement live from the Victoria and Albert Museum #FinestFiction

Posted by The Man Booker Prize on Wednesday, 14 June 2017

B’Tselem uses photographers and videographers to collect information on the conduct of soldiers and residents of Israeli settlements in the West Bank. In March 2016, one of the group’s volunteers, Imad Abu Shamsiyeh, filmed Israeli army sergeant Elor Azaria shooting an already disarmed and neutralized Palestinian terrorist in the head after a gun attack. white in Hebron. This sequence had fueled a national debate on the excessive use of force and on the values ​​of the Israeli army.

Grossman has been supporting the group for a long time. In a letter written in 2012 endorsing B’Tselem’s campaign to provide additional cameras to Palestinians in the West Bank, the author called the organization’s work “a real source of pride”.

Group director Hagai El-Ad thanked the translator and congratulated the two winners in a post on Facebook on Thursday. He repeated Cohen’s message of exposing “uncomfortable truths”, adding “with your help, and with the help of many others, we will continue to do just this. “

Born January 25, 1954 in Jerusalem, David Grossman has addressed in his works the sufferings of both Israelis and Palestinians, while the two peoples live trapped in a conflict that has lasted for decades.

His books have been translated into 30 languages.

The Man Booker International Prize was awarded last year to South Korean author Han Kang for her novel The Vegetarian, sold 160,000 copies in the UK alone.

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David Grossman, winner of the prestigious Man Booker International Prize

Hank Gilbert