Faculty Books Shortlisted for the Wingate Literary Prize

Jessie Shohfi
February 03, 2023

Update: February 3, 2023

Both The Man Who Sold Air in the Holy Land by Adjunct Assistant Professor Omer Friedlander and The Memory Monster, written by Yishai Sarid and translated from the Hebrew by alumna Yardenne Greenspan '12, are among the seven titles on the shortlist for the 2022/23 Wingate Literary Prize. 

“[The Memory Monster] takes the form of a report by a Holocaust educator to the chair of the board of Yad Vashem,” said Wingate Chair of judges Dr. Aviva Dautch. “It doesn’t question the importance of Holocaust education, but does ask about its impact on young Israelis who are going to war themselves. It challenges sacred cows and is incredibly controversial for it.”

The Man Who Sold Air in the Holy Land has been picking up other accolades, and was recently selected as an Honor Book for the American Library Association Sophie Brody Award. The story collection was also named the winner of the Association of Jewish Libraries (AJL) Jewish Fiction Award, which confers a $1,000 cash prize and an invitation for the author to attend the 2023 Digital Conference of the Association of Jewish Libraries. 

 “The universal appeal of this collection reaches above and beyond the political as the stories highlight the kaleidoscope of human experience including insecurity, vulnerability, infatuation, loss, grief, love, compassion, and regret,” said AJL committee member Sarah Feldman.

The winner of the Wingate Prize will be announced on March 12. 

Original: December 7, 2022

The Man Who Sold Air in the Holy Land by Adjunct Assistant Professor Omer Friedlander and The Memory Monster, written by Yishai Sarid and translated from the Hebrew by alumna Yardenne Greenspan '12, have both been longlisted for the 2022/23 Wingate Literary Prize. 

Established in 1977, the Wingate Literary Prize is awarded annually to the book, whether fiction or nonfiction, which best conveys the idea of Jewishness to the general reader. This year, the titles selected convey the “breadth and depth of contemporary Jewish writing,” exploring “a diverse range of important themes,” according to the judges. The longlist is an equal split of fiction and nonfiction titles, one of which will win the title and the £4,000 cash prize. Previous winners of the Wingate Prize include Zadie Smith, W.G. Sebald, David Grossman, Amos Oz, Etgar Keret, and Nicole Krauss. 

Judging panel chair Dr Aviva Dautch said, “After a warmly enjoyable, but also robust, discussion, we arrived at a long list which showcases the breadth and depth of contemporary Jewish writing: from well-researched reportage of previously little-known but urgently relevant historical events to intellectual enquiries into what it means to live in the modern world; from compelling memoirs to beautifully crafted and surprising fiction, told through sinuous literary prose.

“We selected the best books using the prize’s criteria but were delighted to find they were by writers from a diverse range of nationalities and backgrounds, including established names as well as exciting debuts. Sadly, we had to let some very deserving books go, but are confident that the twelve we have chosen merit a wide readership, bringing the nuanced complexities of Jewish experience to a general audience.”

The Man Who Sold Air in the Holy Land, Friedlander’s collection of stories, is an intimate journey into a world of twisted fairytales. The collection received a starred review from Publishers Weekly, which stated, “Friedlander debuts with a dynamic collection. . . With sensitivity and compassion [he] imbues his characters with a deeply felt humanity, and his finely tuned command of emotional tenor will evoke tears and laughter in equal measure. . . These superior character portraits make for an auspicious start.”

The Memory Monster, a novel which explores the trauma of a young historian who becomes obsessed with memories of the Holocaust, was a finalist for the National Jewish Book Award. It was also a New York Times Book Review notable book. In their review, the Times said, “Translated from the Hebrew with a steady hand by Yardenne Greenspan . . . [The Memory Monster is] a brilliant short novel that serves as a brave, sharp-toothed brief against letting the past devour the present.”

The Wingate Prize shortlist will be announced in January of 2023 and the winner will be announced in March.

The Man Who Sold Air in the Holy Land is available here, and The Memory Monster is here.

Omer Friedlander is the author of the short story collection The Man Who Sold Air in the Holy Land (Random House, 2022). His novel, The Glass Golem, is forthcoming from Random House. He was born in Jerusalem in 1994 and grew up in Tel-Aviv. He has a BA in English Literature from the University of Cambridge and an MFA from Boston University, where he was supported by the Saul Bellow Fellowship. He is a Starworks Fellow in Fiction at New York University. His stories have won multiple awards, and his writing has been supported by the Bread Loaf Work-Study Fellowship and Vermont Studio Center Fellowship.

Yardenne Greenspan is a writer and Hebrew translator born in Tel Aviv and based in New York. Her translations have been published by Restless Books, St. Martin’s Press, Akashic, Syracuse University, New Vessel Press, Amazon Crossing, and Farrar, Straus & Giroux. She has worked with authors such as Amir Gutfreund, Yirmi Pinkus, Alex Epstein, Shimon Adaf, and Etgar Keret. Her translation of Yishai Sarid's novel, The Memory Monster, was selected as one of The New York Times 100 Notable Books of 2020. Greenspan has been awarded residencies, grants, and accolades from Writers OMI, the American Literary Translators Association, and World Literature Today. Greenspan's writing and translations have appeared in The New Yorker, Haaretz, Guernica, Literary Hub, Blunderbuss, Apogee, The Massachusetts Review, Asymptote, and Words Without Borders, among other publications. She has an MFA from Columbia University and is a regular contributor to Ploughshares.