Eshkol Nevo - Ofer Vaknin - 02112011
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The 12 nominees for the Sapir Prize for Literature were announced on Tuesday. The list will now be winnowed down to five finalists, who will be announced November 24.

The prize, one of the most prestigious in Israeli literature, has been awarded annually since 2000 by the national lottery, Mifal Hapayis. The winner will receive NIS 150,000, and the other finalists will receive NIS 25,000. The winner will be announced in early January.

Six of the 12 authors are competing for the prize for first time: Moshe Sakal for his fourth novel, "Yolanda"; Yael Neeman for her first book, an autobiography called "We Were the Future"; Sami Berdugo for "That is to Say"; Ben Vered for his second book, "How I Prepared Myself for War"; Hagai Linik for his third book, "Darush Lahshan" ("Prompter Needed" ); and Matan Hermoni for his first novel, "Hebrew Publishing Company."

The other six nominees are Dror Burstein for "Netanya"; Zeruya Shalev for "Shards of Life"; Eshkol Nevo for "Neuland"; Dan Benaya Seri for "Artur"; Almog Behar for "Rachel and Ezekiel"; and Orly Castel-Bloom for "Winter Life." All except Burstein have been nominated for the second time; this is Burstein's third appearance on the list of nominees.

This year, for the first time, all the books were published by large publishing houses, including Keter, Kinneret Zmora Bitan Dvir and Sifriya Hadasha. Two of the imprints are subsidiaries of Yedioth Ahronoth Books: Babel and Ahuzat Bayit.

"The selection is not based on the publishers, but only on the books," said Dolin Melnik, the head of Mifal Hapayis' culture and arts division, in response to the criticism that no small publishing houses appear on the list. "All the publishers submitted books, and the committee does not consider the publisher."

Mifal Hapayis will also buy 500 copies of each of the five finalists' books, to be distributed to public libraries around the country. The winning book will be translated into Arabic and one other language of the author's choice.

There is an additional prize for a first novel. This prize will be announced on November 24 along with the finalists for the main prize. There are 26 candidates, but the names are kept secret. The winner will receive NIS 25,000, and 500 copies of his book will be distributed to libraries.

The prize is modeled on England's Man Booker Prize. The 2011 prize jury has seven members, headed by retired Supreme Court Justice Dalia Dorner. A total of 63 books were originally in the running for this year's prize.

The 2010 prize was awarded to Yoram Kaniuk for "1948." The best debut work went to Anat Einhar for "Summer Predators." Other authors who have won the prize in the past include Haim Sabato, David Grossman, Ron Leshem and Alona Frankel.