Etgar Keret, Renowned Israeli Author, Wins $100,000 Charles Bronfman Prize

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Israeli author Etgar Keret.Credit: Tali Shani

Israeli author Etgar Keret is this year's recipient of the Charles Bronfman Prize, the prize organization announced from New York Wednesday, explaining that Keret was chosen to receive the award "in recognition of his work conveying Jewish values across cultures and imparting a humanitarian vision throughout the world."

The prize organization noted that Keret, 48, is best known for his short stories, graphic novels, film and television projects, and has been one of the country's most popular writers since his first volume of short stories appeared in 1992.  "His work has been published in 46 countries and translated into 41 languages, including Farsi [Persian], and has been featured around the world in outlets including The New Yorker, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Le Monde, The Paris Review, Zoetrope and National Public Radio," the organization said.

"It is a great honor for me to be the 2016 recipient of The Charles Bronfman Prize. If I had the choice to either become a better writer or a better person, I would choose, with no hesitation, the latter option," Keret said. "When I write I try not to preach to my readers but to put them in front of a text presenting an incomplete world, thus turning the reading process itself into a 'Hevruta' study," referring to an activity among a circle of friends.

The nominating committee for the prize, which carries a $100,000 cash award, included Haaretz columnist Sayed Kashua and the American author Jonathan Safran Foer. Kashua said: "Somehow, when I read Keret, I know deep inside that there is still room for understanding, for cooperation, that there is another way which refuses to accept the segregation between religions, people, nationalities and species." 

Keret’s most recent book, “The Seven Good Years: A Memoir,” was written in Hebrew but has not been published in Israel, and no Hebrew edition is in the works. While that has not affected its success abroad — it made the British newspaper The Guardian’s 10 best biographies and memoirs of 2015 list and was translated into Persian — it has led to criticism of Keret in Israel.

Describing it as a "hybrid memoir" in a review of the book last year in Haaretz, Lisa Schwartzbaum went on to state: "The heart of the book beats in the family stories about birth and death and life in between. The rest is riffs on the stuff of everyday getting-on-with-it, some of which originally appeared in American publications including the New York Times Magazine and Tablet."

The Charles Bronfman Prize was established by Bronfman's children and their spouses. He has been a major Jewish philanthropist and was co-founder of Birthright, which provides free trips to Israel to Jews between the ages of 18 and 26.

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