The Charles Bronfman Prize Names Etgar Keret as 2016 Recipient
The Charles Bronfman Prize today announced Etgar Keret, the internationally acclaimed Israeli author, storyteller and filmmaker, as the 2016 Prize recipient in recognition of his work conveying Jewish values across cultures and imparting a humanitarian vision throughout the world.
The Prize was established in 2004 by Ellen Bronfman Hauptman and Stephen Bronfman, together with their spouses, Andrew Hauptman and Claudine Blondin Bronfman, to honor their father, Charles Bronfman, his values, and his commitment to young people and their potential as change makers. Past recipients have been recognized for their significant contributions to a diverse range of causes, including: refugee rights, poverty, education, disability rights, the environment, healthcare, and workforce development for veterans. The Prize is accompanied by a $100,000 award.
Keret, 48, best known for his short stories, graphic novels, film and television projects, has been one of Israel’s most popular writers since his first collection of short stories was published in 1992. Hailed as the voice of young Israel, Keret is one of the most successful Israeli writers worldwide. His work has been published in 46 countries and translated into 41 languages, including Farsi, and has been featured in outlets including The New Yorker, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Le Monde, The Paris Review, Zoetrope and National Public Radio (NPR).
“We recognize that humanitarian work is increasingly taking new forms and this marks the first time The Charles Bronfman Prize has been awarded to an individual who uses storytelling as a medium through which he challenges and inspires the way people think about themselves and the world,” said Stephen Bronfman on behalf of the Prize founders and international panel of judges. “Etgar Keret is an important international voice who speaks of the Jewish condition in contemporary terms and demonstrates that writers can play an influential and critical role within society.”
Charles Bronfman, the namesake of the Prize, said, “In a dangerous world, Etgar Keret portrays people who have the capacity to empathize with the other, to hear the other, and to find compassion for the other. He counters dehumanization and inspires his readers with warmth and humor and original thinking. He encourages others to make the world a better place and translates the lessons of the Holocaust to a new generation. Etgar’s ability to innovate and collaborate with others involved in creative endeavors fully embodies the values and spirit of the Prize and I am delighted by his selection.”
“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. I feel that The Charles Bronfman Prize sets the same priorities, being given not only for talent and excellence but more than anything, for the genuine attempt to make a change and shape the world we live in.” said Keret. “The best way to learn a text is through arguing about its meaning with another person. The value of critical thought is of great moral importance. It doesn’t excuse us at any moment from contemplating our decisions and assuming full responsibility for them. 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 (fellowship) study.”
“In periods of great change, writers may capture the feelings, thoughts, and experiences of many and give them a voice,” said Keret’s nominator, Nissim Calderon, Professor Emeritus of Hebrew Literature at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev in Israel. “Etgar is one such writer, and his literary creativity is paralleled by social involvement. His stories offer his readers – many of them young people – something in their multiple cultures, which responds to some need greater than the particular in their lives.”
Keret’s nominating team for The Charles Bronfman Prize also includes best-selling author Jonathan Safran Foer, Polish journalist Pawel Smolenski and Palestinian-Israeli author and journalist Sayed Kashua, who said in support of Keret’s nomination: “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. That there is another way, Keret’s way, which refuses to accept dichotomies, and in which opposites mix and turn into one creation, harmonious in its discordance and complete with its shortcomings…proving that literature can change the world.”
More About Etgar Keret
Born in Ramat Gan in 1967 and raised by parents who survived the Holocaust, Etgar Keret is one of the leading voices in Israeli literature and is internationally acclaimed for his work across a wide range of cultural endeavors. One of Israel’s most innovative and extraordinary storytellers, Keret, is best known for his short stories. Rarely extending beyond three or four pages, his stories offer a window into a surreal world that is at once funny and sad. Keret started writing in 1992 during his service in the Israel Defense Forces and has since published five collections of short stories, one memoir, four graphic novels, and four children’s books.
Keret has been awarded the Prime Minister’s Prize (1996), the Ministry of Culture’s Prime Minister Award for Literature in Israel (1998), the Ministry of Culture’s Award for Film Making in Israel (2000), the Jewish Quarterly – UK Wingate Award (2008), the St. Petersburg Public Library’s Foreign Favorite Award (2010), the Newman Prize (2012), and each of his books has received the Book Publishers Association’s Platinum Prize (1995, 1996, 1999, 2003, 2011). In 2010, Keret was honored in France with the decoration of Chevalier de l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres. His latest book, and first non-fiction work, The Seven Good Years, was chosen by The Guardian as one of the best biographies and memoirs of 2015.
Keret has written several screenplays, including Malka Lev Adom (Skin Deep) (1996), which won first prize at several international film festivals and was awarded an Israeli Film Academy award. Keret and his wife, Israeli filmmaker and children’s book writer Shira Geffen, won the 2007 Cannes Film Festival’s Camera d’Or award and Best Director Award of the French Artists and Writers’ Guild for their film Jellyfish.
In an effort to bring literature closer to a younger generation, Keret initiated and edited Silhouettes, and founded the nonprofit StoryVid. Silhouettes is an anthology of work by young Israelis that aims to describe, through fiction, the difficulties confronted by people with psychiatric disabilities. Proceeds from the book were donated to help related causes. Keret’s StoryVid is a new media project that combines books and cinema to create, as The Paris Review said, “the literary equivalent of a music video.”
He is a regular contributor to NPR’s “This American Life,” and a lecturer in the Department of Hebrew Literature at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev in Israel. Keret resides in Tel Aviv with his wife, Shira Geffen, and their son, Lev.
About The Charles Bronfman Prize
The Charles Bronfman Prize celebrates the vision and endeavor of an individual or team under the age of 50 whose humanitarian work is inspired by Jewish values and whose accomplishments are of universal benefit. The Prize brings public recognition to their work and impact, providing inspiration to the next generations. An internationally recognized panel of Judges selects the Prize recipient(s) and bestows an award of $100,000.
Previous recipients include Jay Feinberg, Founder and Executive Director of the Gift of Life Bone Marrow Foundation; Dr. Alon Tal, Founder of Israel’s Arava Institute for Environmental Studies; Dr. Amitai Ziv, Founder and Director of the Israel Center for Medical Simulation; Rachel Andres, Founder and Director of Jewish World Watch’s Solar Cooker Project; Mike Feinberg and Dave Levin, Co-Founders of the Knowledge is Power Program (KIPP); Sasha Chanoff, Founder and Executive Director, RefugePoint; Jared Genser, Founder and President of Freedom Now; Karen Tal, Former Principal of The Bialik-Rogozin School and Co-Founder of Education Insights; Eric Rosenthal, Founder and Executive Director of Disability Rights International; Sam Goldman, Founder of d.light; and Rebecca Heller, Co-Founder and Director of the International Refugee Assistance Project.