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THE SAPIR PRIZE FOR LITERATURE - 2005
About The Prize
The prestigious Sapir Prize for Literature, considered the highest literary award in Israel, has been bestowed annually by Mifal Hapais for the past six years. The prize is similar in format to Britain's Booker Prize. All the publishing houses in Israel that meet the criteria specified in the prize regulations are entitled to submit up to ten literary works, of which a short list of five books is chosen for that year. Out of the five finalists, one winner is announced at a ceremony during Hebrew Book Week. The Sapir Prize for Literature is granted, in accordance with its regulations, to an author whose work has been judged the best literary piece of the year out of the finalists for that year.
The five authors on the final list receive a grant of NIS 25,000;and the recipient of the Sapir Prize is awarded an additional NIS 150,000 and another NIS 25,000 for translating and publishing the book in the foreign language of his or her choice.
The five short-listed books participate in literary events held throughout Israel, at which the authors meet with readers, and discuss their books and creative literary process.
Mifal Hapais' Sapir Prize for Literature was first awarded in the year 2000 to author Haim Sabato for his book Adjusting Sights, published by Yediot Aharonot. In 2001, David Grossman won for his book Someone to Run With, from Hakibbutz Hameuchad Publishing. Gail Hareven received the prize in 2002 for My True Love, published by Keter. In 2003, Amir Gutfreund's book The Shoreline Mansions took the award, and in 2004 Dan Tsalka for Tsalka's ABC. The 2005 recipient was author Alona Frankel for Girl.
"Girl" by Alona Frankel is a memoir reconstructed many years after the fact. Unlike the classic diary of the Dutch Anne Frank, a fellow victim who did not survive, "Girl" was not written in real time by a persecuted child having difficulty believing in the values of truth, beauty and the goodness of Man while hiding with her family in a monstrous, absurd, merciless world.
Frankel's major accomplishment is her authentic styling of the young victim's voice, who tells her story from the distance of time in childlike confusion, heart-wrenchingly and with chilling accuracy; a voice of innocence and pain, terror and wonder at the world's strangeness - its horrifying evil and yet its infinite magic and beauty as well.
"Could it be? How could it be?" asks the protagonist of "Girl" over and over again, in post-traumatic repetition, shocked and uncomprehending of the things she has experienced.
And this little girl is us. Sixty years later, we still share in the shock and trauma, incapable of digesting the absurdity and horror in our world that allowed the illegal seizure of millions of human beings and massacring them.
The testimonies of survivors are tremendously important for the preservation of historical memory. But in rare cases, a personal testimony also rises to the rank of literature that has unique, universal value, as is the case with the memoir of Alona Frankel. "Girl" is worthy of taking a distinguished place on the bookshelf of literary masterpiece testimonies, alongside Primo Levi, Ida Fink, Tadeusz Borowski, Aharon Appelfeld or Anne Frank.
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