German paper awards J'lem author literary prize

The paper’s literary jury dubbed Zeruya Shalev’s writings as marked by “great magical language.”

November 11, 2012 00:55
2 minute read.
Zeruya Shalev during Leipzig Book Fair 2012

Zeruya Shalev 370. (photo credit: Wikimedia Commons)


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BERLIN – The Die Welt daily presented Zeruya Shalev, one of Israel’s most acclaimed fiction writers, with its annual 10,000 euro literary prize for her body of novels at a ceremony on Friday.

The paper’s literary jury dubbed Shalev’s writings as marked by “great magical language.”

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Shalev has an enormous literary readership in the Federal Republic. The German book program Das Literarische Quartett, hosted by prominent German- Polish Jewish literary critic Marcel Reich-Ranicki, praised her book Love Life in 2001 along with his co-hosts, quickly catapulting the work to literary stardom.

Rachel Salamander, publisher of Die Welt’s literary supplement, told a packed audience at publisher Springer Verlag media group headquarters that that a million viewers watched Reich- Ranicki on the evening when he declared that Shalev’s book “belongs to the best of what I have read this year.”

Love Life delves into the trials and tribulations of a young married woman who falls in love with a cynical older man, and German actress Maria Schrader in 2007 directed the joint German- Israeli film production of the work (known as Liebesleben in German).

Shalev spoke at the prize ceremony about the biblical influences on her writings as well as her travels as an Israeli writer, saying she is asked at “every international event about why she doesn’t write about politics.”

“I feel that my country is at my side for better or worse,” she affirmed.


Literary inspiration for Shalev was “the beauty of Jewish sources, primarily the Bible.” She recalled how as a young girl, her father read her biblical stories about Ruth, Moses and Abraham, and that he later introduced her to the writings of Franz Kafka.

Shalev was born on Kibbutz Kinneret and lives in Jerusalem, and holds a master’s in Biblical Studies from the Hebrew University.

She joins the ranks of 13 literary giants who have previously won the Die Welt prize, including Israel’s Amos Oz; Imre Kertész, who won the 2002 Noble Prize for literature; Philip Roth; Yasmina Reza; and Leon de Winter.

Shalev said that Die Welt is “the new face of Germany” because the paper shows a deep interest in Israel and Israeli literature.

Salamander – who was born in a displaced persons camp in post-Holocaust Germany – is the head of the daily’s literary supplement, and has garnered a reputation as one of Germany’s leading literature experts. Its prize is awarded in memory of Willy Haas (1891-1973), the German-Jewish founder of the paper’s literary section.

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