Esther Peled is the winner of the Sapir Prize for Literature for 2017 for “Widely Open Underneath,” her book of short stories, it was announced Monday. She will receive 150,000 shekels ($43,800) and her book will be translated into Arabic and another language of her choice.
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The prize, awarded by the Mifal Hapayis national lottery, is the most lucrative literature prize in Israel and is considered the most prestigious. It was launched as a local version of Britain’s Mann Booker Prize and has been awarded annually since 2000 to the outstanding book of the previous year.
The award process has two stages: Sifting through all the books submitted for consideration to compile a long list of 10 titles, whose authors are each awarded 20,000 shekels, and the reduction to a short list of five books, whose authors receive another 40,000 shekels each.
The prize committee is headed by Prof. Orna Ben-Naftali, and its other members are Hebrew literature researcher Dr. Shimrit Peled, writer and jurist Prof. Zvi Triger, writer and literary scholar Prof. Uri S. Cohen, author Yair Assulin, Eyal Sagi Bizawi and Bilha Ben-Eliyahu.
Although Peled’s work is a book of short stories, taken together they reveal a much bigger story of a woman who lives in a small community. She ends a long-term relationship with an older man to whom she could not commit, starts a romance with a young man to whom she doesn’t really connect and in the end decides to live her life alone. The plot isn’t the main feature of the book; it’s the sequence of inner speech and the heroine’s experiences, which are familiar to every woman.
Last year’s winner was Michal Ben-Naftali for her book “The Teacher.”