Novelists Joshua Ferris, an American, and Howard Jacobson, a Brit, are a step closer to Man Booker glory this morning. Along with four other writers, Ferris and Jacobson went from long list to short list candidates for this year’s Man Booker Prize, an honor which bestows great prestige and a handsome sum of roughly $80,000.
This is the first year writers from beyond the British Commonwealth—like Ferris and Karen Joy Fowler, another finalist, have been considered. Non-Brits may now contest provided their works are written in English and have been published in the U.K.
Ferris’s entry, To Rise Again at a Decent Hour, concerns a non-Jewish dentist who gets ensnared in an ancient cult related to the Amalekites and who yearns above all to be part of a Jewish community, even while he lacks faith.
A non-Jew who grew up going from church to church, Ferris grew interested in Judaism as a young man when he saw friends around him going to Hillel and engaging in Jewish ritual. He further explained on Vox Tablet this year what attracted him to examining the idea of Jewish community in his novel. “What I found in Judaism was a kind of heterodoxy, a practice that went far beyond a statement of belief. And that engagement–that weekly engagement and that daily engagement, because I was so far outside of it was extremely enticing.”
The book, he said, “was really an attempt to show what it‘s like to be a non-Jew looking in on the rich customs and traditions of Judaism.”