And the Winner Is ...

The wait for the prestigious Sapir literary prize is less suspenseful than one would think.


"So there's a chance?" my father asks the day before the winner of the Sapir Prize is to be announced.

Amos Biderman
Amos Biderman

"I don't know."

"They haven't told you anything?"


"Whoever won probably received a message about it already. So nobody called you?"

"No, nobody called."

"You can't find out somehow?"


"Come on, don't you know people who know people?"

"I really don't."

"So why should your mother and I drive all the way to Tel Aviv just to be disappointed?"

My father has a point. Yes, I'd been very pleased to learn that my book was included on the long list for the Sapir Prize, and I was even more pleased when they called to tell me that it was one of the final five candidates. But something about this ceremony that was due to take place the next day really bothered me. I can't describe the feeling exactly. I'm not sure if it's a kind of excitement, or suspense, or more a horrible feeling of "Why do I need to go through this?"

I'd be ready to pass on the ceremony - I mean on the ceremony in its present form, which is that you arrive at the auditorium in the company of family and close friends and await the judges' decision. The ceremony will be filmed and aired on one of the television channels. From my experience with television, I know that they'll do their utmost to create moments of suspense. They'll surely focus on the nominees' expressions just before the announcement, forever capturing moments, brief as they may be, of disappointment on the one hand, and of a completely silly grin on the happy winner's face the moment his name is announced by the hosts.

If only they would announce the winner beforehand, and that way we - the other nominees and invitees - could just come to show our respect and share in this literary event. If it wouldn't paint me in a dreary, arrogant and ungrateful light, I'd delete my entire guest list and attend the prize ceremony all by myself. Oh God - I can't bear to think about how something that began as a joyful event could well end up feeling like a stinging loss. I'd like to preserve the happiness and pride, even if it's childish, of being one of the nominees, but there's no escaping it - by this time tomorrow, four of us will have been made into losers.

If I believed that the Sapir Prize, which is turning into the Sapir contest, would really put the audience in suspense leading up to the announcement, I could somehow understand the terrifying ceremony. But let's face it, I know full well that the Israeli public isn't exactly waiting with bated breath to see who's going to win the literary reality show.

"Is there going to be food at least?" my father asks before handing the phone to my mother.

"You hear me?" says my mother. "I don't think I ought to come to the ceremony tomorrow."

"Why?" I ask. "Will you be ashamed if I don't win?"

"No," she replies in an approval-seeking tone. "It's because of the headscarf. I don't know, you know, your father said it's going to be filmed for television, and I don't want to embarrass you with my headscarf."

"That doesn't embarrass me," I said, trying to sound convincing. "Why would you say that, Mother?" Why should that embarrass me? On the contrary, it's a big honor."

"You're sure?"

"Yes," I answered. "One million percent," thinking to myself that this would be about the last thing that might embarrass me tomorrow at the ceremony.

I can already picture just how it's going to go tomorrow - I'm going to get completely blasted before the event begins. That's the plan: alcohol. I don't see any other way to survive events of this kind. I'll get drunk, I'll feel sick, and I won't be able to see where I'm going. I'll walk crooked, I'll stumble off the stage, I might kiss Yoram Kaniuk, or I might curse him. My parents will once again be ashamed by my behavior, they'll smile like they always do as they lecture me that I have to stop with this drinking, that this is going to be on television and everyone will see what an idiot they have for a son. My mother will adjust her headscarf and regret that she didn't go all out and wear a veil, just to prove that I turned out to be a rotten apple despite the pious atmosphere of my childhood home. My head will nod nonstop, and I'll feel this constant need to get up out of my seat and walk around and stand out.

My father will try to rein me in. "At least sit still," he'll say, but it won't get him very far. He'll be keenly aware of the television cameras and suppress his powerful desire to give me a slap or two. He'll wonder where they went wrong. They just won't be able to figure out how I could turn out like this, what with all the effort they put into our upbringing. He'll console himself that at least I'm the only one who turned out this way, that the rest of his children are fine upstanding citizens.

But the thing that will bother me the most will be my wife's attitude. So what if I'm acting like an idiot - Is that any reason to be ashamed of me instead of standing by my side and supporting me and understanding that it was against my will? Is she really going to distance herself from me like that, in front of everyone, instead of reassuring me and holding my hand through these most difficult moments?

Without a second glance, she'll go sit at another table and act as if she's part of another nominee's entourage.

You know what? Fine, no problem, do whatever you want. Go right ahead, but I assure you, you'll be sorry. Okay, so I'm teetering, and everyone's looking at me, and they'd probably feel sorry for you, have pity on you, and think to themselves - How did this beautiful woman get mixed up with this piece of work? But rest assured, when they call my name and I ascend the podium, everyone will be overcome with excitement, and the fact that I happen to be drunk will only cause me to speak from the heart. I'll warmly shake the hand of the person who gives me the prize, a statuette I'm betting - I hope it's not too heavy. I'll take a deep breath and then I'll give a speech. That's right, a speech, and my words will move everyone, and all of a sudden, from all the alcohol and the sincerity I think I will cry - Yes, I'm sure I will cry. People at home will get choked up, they'll feel certain that the judges awarded the prize to the right person. I'll thank everyone, that is - everyone that I remember to thank. I'll thank my parents, I'll make special mention of my mother, the camera will focus on her as she wipes away a tear of pride. But you I won't thank. I know you deserve my thanks, but right now I'm a little angry, and it's not nice what you did, so I'm not going to thank you. But afterward we'll make up, maybe as soon as I come down off the stage with the award in one hand. Maybe you'll be waiting there below - You'll tell me that you love me and give me a hug that causes more keen viewers at home to thrill at the obvious affection between us. You know what? It's going to be just great ....

"You hear me?" my mother asks on the phone, rousing me from my reverie.


"Your father says that if there's no food, he's not coming."