by Paul Baggaley, Picador publisher
Tonight at Kings Place in North London, where Jewish Book Week is being celebrated, the winner of the Jewish Quarterly Wingate Prize for Jewish Literature was announced. In a brave and possibly controversial choice, the judges picked Hope: A Tragedy by Shalom Auslander as the winner. This is quite simply, one of the strangest, darkest and undoubtedly funniest novels I have ever read (let alone published).
Shalom is both provocateur and humanist. He is also a truly wonderful comic writer who tells a story with such an outlandish premise and yet makes it totally believable.
I am personally thrilled that this book has delighted more readers than it has offended and I think it is a wonderful testimony to the openness of the judges that they have embraced this novel in all its dangerous glory.
Fans of Hope: A Tragedy are now legion and there can surely be few novels that could bring together in awe-struck admiration such diverse figures as Edwina Currie, Howard Jacobson, Davd Baddiel and the Wingate judges. Here are some of my favourite responses:
One of the best books I read last year. It’s hilarious . . . I think we should all read it.
Bursting with raw talent, shockingly irreverent, studded with comic brilliance and unbearable poignancy. It explored the legacy of the Holocaust for subsequent generations head-on, furiously renounced its appropriation and despaired of ever being able to escape its shadow. Its purposeful audacity and literary pyrotechnics disturbed and beguiled in equal measures. We did not consider it to be flawless, but we saluted its ambition and felt that its high risk strategy was more than justified.
Just finished Shalom Auslander’s remarkable novel Hope: A Tragedy. Bloke finds Anne Frank in his attic. Move over Kafka, you have competition.
A wonderful, twisted, transgressive, heartbreaking, true, and hugely funny book. It will make very many people angry. It will also make very many people very happy.
I think it’s a brilliant book, I think it’s as good as Portnoy’s Complaint.
Can the darkest events of the twentieth century and of all human history be used to show the folly of hope? And can the result be so funny that you burst out laughing again and again? If you doubt this is possible, read Hope: A Tragedy. You won't regret it.
Auslander writes like some contemporary comedic Jeremiah, thundering warnings of disaster and retribution. What makes him so terrifyingly funny is that he isn’t joking. That book is genius
More from Shalom Auslander:
Shalom Auslander wants to hide in your attic
Shalom Auslander enters the Three Under Three contest
Read more about Hope: A Tragedy