Israeli Author David Grossman Wins Man Booker International Prize

Grossman, nominated for his latest work 'A Horse Walks Into a Bar,' is the first Israeli to win the prize, one of the most important annual literary awards

David Grossman and Jessica Cohen, winners of the Man Booker International Prize, pose with their work, 'A Horse Walks Into a Bar.'
David Grossman and Jessica Cohen, winners of the Man Booker International Prize, pose with their work, 'A Horse Walks Into a Bar.' DANIEL LEAL-OLIVAS/AFP

Israeli author David Grossman's latest work, "A Horse Walks Into a Bar," won the Man Booker International Prize on Wednesday.

The £50,000 award, which recognizes fiction from around the world that is translated into English, will be split between Grossman and Jessica Cohen, who translated the book. Cohen announced that she intends to donate half of her prize money to the human rights organization B'Tselem.

>> 5 must-read David Grossman Haaretz articles following his Man Booker award

Grossman is the first Israeli to win the prize, which is one of the most important annual literary awards. This year, two Israelis were among the 13 authors who made the long list for the prize. Amos Oz was also nominated for “Judas” (translated by Nicholas de Lange), his first novel in a decade.

Grossman’s book, about a not-so-amusing stand-up artist straining to keep up, is “an unsettling, cathartic, confessional stream-of-consciousness soliloquy,” Haaretz's reviewer wrote. 

>> Read the full review here >>

"A Horse Walks into a Bar" was released in Hebrew in 2014 and has since been translated into 22 languages. 

Grossman began his acceptance speech by saying, "Two members of the short list are from Israel. It's a great sign of honor to our language ... since it was a dormant language for something like 1,800 years. It is such a phenomenon that in the last 120 years the Hebrew language has been revitalized, awakened from its long sleep and became a language of every dayness. When my two young granddaughters play with each other in Hebrew, they don't even know this is some kind of a miracle. Today we have such flourishing and wonderful literature."

Nick Barley, the chair of the Man Booker Prize's 2017 judging panel, said the book "shines a spotlight on the effects of grief, without any hint of sentimentality.

"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," Barley commented.

The 2016 winner was "The Vegetarian" by Han Kang, translated from Korean by Deborah Smith.