Author David Grossman on Tuesday was announced as the winner of the Man Booker International Prize of 2017 for his novel “A Horse Walks into a Bar,” becoming the first Israeli writer to receive the prestigious award.
Grossman’s novel, translated from Hebrew by Jessica Cohen, is set in a comedy club in Netanya, focusing on an embittered comedian falling apart on stage.
“Thank you all. I will cherish this award and this evening,” Grossman said after receiving the prize at a ceremony in central London.
“I thank first of all my wonderful, devoted, translator, Jessica Cohen,” the 63-year-old author added.
The translator, Cohen, was born in England, raised in Israel and lives in Denver, and has translated Grossman as well as Etgar Keret, Rutu Modan, Dorit Rabinyan and others.
“David Grossman has attempted an ambitious high-wire act of a novel, and he’s pulled it off spectacularly,” said chair of the judging panel Nick Barley in a statement.
“‘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,” he said.
Grossman and Cohen will share the £50,000 ($64,000) award.
“This is only the second year that the Man Booker International Prize has been awarded to a single book, with the £50,000 prize divided equally between the author and the translator,” the award panel said in a statement.
Another major Israeli author, Amos Oz, was also nominated for the prize for his book “Judas.”
The other contenders were Argentine novelist Samanta Schweblin and her debut novel “Fever Dream,” French writer Mathias Enard’s “Compass,” Norwegian author Roy Jacobsen’s family epic “The Unseen,” and Danish novelist Dorthe Nors’ “Mirror, Shoulder, Signal.”
Since he started writing in the late 1970s after being fired from public radio following anger over his critical coverage, Grossman has won numerous Israeli and international awards.
His 1986 novel “See Under: Love” is seen by a number of critics as his masterpiece, delving into the Holocaust and the generation of Jews that followed.
His 2008 novel “To the End of the Land,” published after his son Uri who was killed fighting in the Second Lebanon War in 2006, contemplates the effects of war while portraying Israeli life.
Grossman’s works have been translated into more than 30 languages and he was also decorated with France’s Chevalier de l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres in 1998.