Israeli writer Grossman wins big award – is everybody happy?

An Israeli, Left, Right or anywhere in the Middle, got favorable headlines, instead of the usual. That is something to celebrate.

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Jack Engelhard,

Jack Engelhard
Jack Engelhard
צילום: מתוך האתר האישי

Any time an Israeli is applauded around the world, we should all be grateful for the Kiddush Hashem it shines on the Jewish State…reservations aside.

Such is the case of Israeli novelist David Grossman – and we will translate Kiddush Hashem as any act that reflects Godliness upon Israel and the Jewish people. 

So a few weeks ago it was announced that David Grossman was awarded the Man Booker Prize 2017 for his latest novel, “A Horse Walks into a Bar.”

This is a big deal. Given by the British, the Booker is maybe not quite as big as the Nobel, but pretty close, and some would say it’s just as good or better.

So why didn’t I write about this when the news first came out? Why didn’t I hi-five the achievement, knowing as I do what it’s like writing a novel – all your dreams invested in two to more years of literary hard labor. I also know what it’s like to finally be recognized, when you hit that blessed moment and fear the evil eye.

My friend Tevee asked exactly that question: “Jack, where were you? I thought you’d jump on Grossman’s big win.” 

Where was I? I was thinking this must be handled with care. This must be appreciated, how the odds are against any Israeli getting good press in parts of the world where Israelis are more likely to be slandered, boycotted, jeered and even arrested merely for being Israeli. 

Handle with care considering big media like the BBC and The New York Times whose headlines ALWAYS run lopsided against Israel and Israelis.

Even at something entirely poetic and literary, they will find a political downside. 


The percentages are stacked against anyone on the Right and in favor of anyone on the Left. Talk their language, and you’ve got a shot. 
I didn’t catch the BBC’s reaction, but the Times fell all over itself in praise of Grossman, and ditto many other publications. It is unanimous. They love him. They adore his book. Here’s the Times, and as later picked up by The New Yorker: “Astounding…A sucker punch tragic excursion into brilliance.” (We used to call such talk Purple Prose.)

Next question – would an Israeli receive the same benefit if he were a designated right-winger? I don’t think so. 

The percentages are stacked against anyone on the Right and in favor of anyone on the Left. Talk their language, and you’ve got a shot. 

We know of course that Grossman belongs to the Left, as do his partners who make up Israel’s Literary Big Three, Amos Oz and A.B. Yehoshua.
A truly Zionistic Israeli writer would never make the cut – and that is my complaint. My beef is not against Grossman, but against the selective tastes of his reviewers.

It should be literature. But so much of it is politics…and I prefer to stay apart and to not mix the two, especially as we see how politics taints nearly everything.

My reaction to Grossman’s win is proof of that. I was annoyed. There they go again, I thought, the Left, celebrating one another.

But then I was angered at my finding politics where none should exist. It is unfair and unjust to heave the one dimension of politics onto the multi-dimensional virtues of poetry and prose. Writers deserve more than a swift kick for their political beliefs. Let the book be judged on its own merits. 

A novel is a tender creation and deserves special respect.

I read the opening parts to Grossman’s “A Horse Walks into a Bar.” Is it “astounding?” I don’t know. So far, maybe not. 

But I have not really given it a chance. Maybe I will. The Customer Reviews on Amazon vary between thumbs up and just okay.

I know it’s about a stand-up routine boxed into a novel. The stand-up is not supposed to be knee-slapping funny, but where a man spills his guts. Like Lenny Bruce used to do. Comedy that attacks. Comedy that hurts. Apparently this is the style Grossman is after in the book.

To match up with Lenny Bruce, that’s quite a task. Does it succeed?

At this point it doesn’t matter. An Israeli, Left, Right or anywhere in the Middle, got favorable headlines, instead of the usual.

By doing so David Grossman brought honor to his entire nation, and that, even more than the award, is something to celebrate. 

New York-based bestselling American novelist Jack Engelhard writes regularly for Arutz Sheva. Engelhard authored the international bestselling novel-turned movie “Indecent Proposal” and the award-winning Montreal memoir “Escape from Mount Moriah.” His latest is “News Anchor Sweetheart.” He is the recipient of the Ben Hecht Award for Literary Excellence. Website: www.jackengelhard.com


  


 








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