Noted Israeli author Etgar Keret has been awarded the Sapir Prize, Israel’s top literary award, for his latest collection of short stories, “A Glitch at the Edge of the Galaxy.”
Keret said he was “very surprised,” according to a statement from Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, where Keret lectures in the Department of Hebrew Literature.
“It’s the happiest thing in the world, but like love or gifts, it’s not something you can strive for. It just happens,” said Keret.
The Sapir Prize for Literature is Israel’s most prestigious annual literary award, funded by the Mifal HaPayis, Israel’s state lottery, and named for the late Pinhas Sapir, a former Israeli finance minister.
It was first established in 2000, and is based on the prestigious British Man Booker Prize, with a NIS 150,000 (around $40,000) prize and another NIS 25,000 (around $6,700) to each of the final contestants. The winner is also granted the translation of his work from Hebrew into Arabic and another language of his choice.
Keret, 51, has won critical acclaim in Israel and abroad for his absurdist short stories, most of which top out at a page or two.
Several of his books have been translated into English and other languages, and a number of his stories have been made into movies. In November, a documentary about him “Based on a true story,” won an International Emmy award.
In 2003, another Keret book of short stories, “Anihu,” was disqualified from competing for the prize because Sapir regulations require books of at least 60,000 words. The rule has since been abolished.
Other writers, such as the recently deceased Amos Oz, Aharon Appelfeld, A.B. Yehoshua and Meir Shalev have refused to submit their books, criticizing the prize on the grounds that it awards only bestsellers.
“A Glitch at the Edge of the Galaxy,” published by Kinneret Zmora-Bitan Dvir, features 24 short stories written in Keret’s signature language and often reflecting on Israeli society, whether with regard to Holocaust remembrance, euthanasia or loneliness.
President Reuven Rivlin congratulated Keret on the award.
“You show us that groundbreaking literature can be found in everyday words, and how few words and all heart can happily cohabit,” he wrote on Twitter.
Keret commented that Israeli book prizes are much more important to him than literature prizes awarded overseas.
“This is the language I write in, this is where I live, and that’s the most important thing,” he said.