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Israeli author David Grossman wins Man Booker Int'l 2017: All you need to know

Catch Team | Updated on: 16 June 2017, 15:24 IST
Israeli author David Grossman poses for a photograph with his book 'A Horse Walks Into a Bar' at the shortlist photocall for the Man Booker International Prize at St James' Church in London on 13 June 2017. (AFP PHOTO/Daniel Leal-Olivas)

A Horse Walks Into a Bar.

This is not the first line of a lame joke. This is the book you need to pick up the soonest, because it has just won this year's The Man Booker International Prize.

Written by Israeli author David Grossman and translated into English by Jessica Cohen, A Horse Walks Into a Bar, beat five other shortlisted books –

Compass (Mathias Enard)

The Unseen (Roy Jacobsen)

Mirror, Shoulder, Signal (Dorthe Nors)

Judas (Amos Orz)

Fever Dream (Samanta Schweblin).

The long list for 2017 had 13 books on it, including Grossman's winner. Over all, Grossman's work beat 126 others to win this honour.

All these books are translations. The Man Booker International Prize is awarded to a single book, every year, that has been translated into English and been published in the United Kingdom.

The 2017 judges panel was chaired by Nick Barley, director of the Edinburgh International Book Festival and consisted of: translator Daniel Hahn; poet Helen Mort; Turkish author and academic Elif Shafak and Nigerian-born writer Chika Unigwe.

A Horse..., published in Britain by Jonathan Cape, saw both the author and the translator being awarded 25,000 pounds each along with a 1,000 pounds for getting shortlisted.

“This is only the second year that the Man Booker International Prize has been awarded to a single book, with the 50,000 pounds prize divided equally between the author and the translator. Its prior form honoured a body of work published either originally in English or available in translation in the English language, and was awarded to Ismail Kadaré in 2005, Chinua Achebe in 2007, Alice Munro in 2009, Philip Roth in 2011, Lydia Davis in 2013, and László Krasznahorkai in 2015,” the Man Booker website stated.

The Vegetarian (Han King), the book that bagged this honour last year, was translated from Korean by Deborah Smith.

Who's Grossman? Ok, here's who he is...

David Grossman is a well-known Israeli author whose repertoire includes everything from fiction, non-fiction to children's literature.

He has been translated into 36 languages and has received a host of awards including the French Chevalier de l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres, the Buxtehuder Bulle in Germany, Rome’s Premio per la Pace e l’Azione Umanitaria, the Frankfurt Peace Prize, and Israel’s Emet Prize.

The End of the Lane is another one of Grossman's critically acclaimed works.

About Jessica Cohen

Jessica Cohen, who shares the prize with Grossman, in an England-born, Jerusalem-raised translator who has worked on The End of the Lane as well. As the Man Booker site tells us, she has also worked with authors like – Tom Segev and Ari Folman. 

And now about that horse...


A Horse Walks Into a Bar unfolds over the course of one final show by stand-up comedian, Dovaleh Gee. Charming, erratic and repellent – Dovaleh exposes a wound he has been living with for years: a fateful and gruesome choice he had to make between the two people who were dearest to him. With themes that encompass betrayal between lovers, the treachery of friends, guilt and redress, A Horse Walks into a Bar is a shocking and breathtaking read,” describes the award site.

“The setting is a comedy club in a small Israeli town. An audience that has come expecting an evening of amusement instead sees a comedian falling apart on stage; an act of disintegration, a man crumbling before their eyes as a matter of choice. They could get up and leave, or boo and whistle and drive him from the stage, if they were not so drawn to glimpse his personal hell. Dovale Gee, a veteran stand-up comic – charming, erratic, repellent – exposes a wound he has been living with for years: a fateful and gruesome choice he had to make between the two people who were dearest to him,” explains another description.

“David Grossman has attempted an ambitious high-wire act of a novel, and he’s pulled it off spectacularly. A Horse Walks into a Bar shines a spotlight on the effects of grief, without any hint of sentimentality. The central character is challenging and flawed, but completely compelling. We were bowled over by Grossman’s willingness to take emotional as well as stylistic risks: every sentence counts, every word matters in this supreme example of the writer’s craft,” chair of the 2017 panel, Nick Barley, said speaking about the book and the author.


First published: 16 June 2017, 14:00 IST