By Ellen Wexler
Every year, the National Jewish Book Awards honor noteworthy works of Jewish literature distributed in the United States. This year’s winners, from Michael Chabon to Meir Shalev, include several authors we’ve been following here at Moment. Read our coverage of the winning authors below.
Jewish Book Council’s Modern Literary Achievement Award
The book frames itself as a second-hand memoir: A World War II veteran grandfather keeps quiet about his lifetime of adventures but, on his deathbed and under the influence of Dilaudid, confesses them all to his grandson… who happens to be the novelist Michael Chabon, this book’s only named main character. Moonglow interweaves three stories: the deathbed confession and its aftermath, the elaboration of the grandfather’s tales and the narrator’s childhood memories of his grandparents.
Finalist: Book Club Award
Although Americans may not immediately recognize his name, best-selling novelist Meir Shalev is one of Israel’s most beloved and celebrated authors. He is a man with deeply held convictions and opinions about both the art of writing and Israel. For one, he never mixes fiction with politics, a maxim that sets him apart from his fellow Israeli authors Amos Oz, A. B. Yehoshua and David Grossman. Instead, Shalev’s whimsical and satirical novels are grounded in the history and legends of pre-state Israel.
Finalist: Debut Fiction
Paul Goldberg’s debut novel, The Yid, may remind many of its readers of the movies of director and screenwriter Quentin Tarantino, and especially his 2009 World War II film Inglourious Basterds [sic], in which a French-Jewish cinema proprietor and a Jewish-American military squad work together to assassinate Hitler and others. Like that film, Goldberg’s novel begins with a shocking, comic scene of aestheticized violence, and then it proceeds to tell the story of a cadre that assembles with the aim of assassinating Stalin in early 1953.
Nine years have passed since the mysterious death of Ashraf Marwan, the senior Egyptian government official who volunteered to spy for Israel’s Mossad. Marwan remains at the center of a bitter controversy over why the October 1973 attack that launched the Yom Kippur War took Israel by surprise.
The key question about Marwan is this: Did he give Israel all the information it needed to protect itself, or was he a double agent, loyal above all else to Egypt as he pulled the wool over the Israelis’ eyes?