Special to the Ledger
WEST HARTFORD – Author Kenneth Bonert has been named winner of the 2013 Edward Lewis Wallant Award for his debut novel, The Lion Seeker (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2013), it was announced recently by the University of Hartford’s Maurice Greenberg Center for Judaic Studies. Bonert will speak at the award presentation ceremony, to be held on Thursday, April 24, 7 p.m., in the University’s Wilde Auditorium.
Bonert’s short stories have appeared in Grain and the Fiddlehead. His story Packers and Movers was shortlisted for the Journey Prize and his novella Peacekeepers, 1995 appeared in McSweeney’s. A one-time journalist, his articles have appeared in The Globe and Mail, the National Post and other publications. Born in South Africa, he now calls Toronto home.
Bonert’s first novel, The Lion Seeker, tells the coming-of-age story of ill-fated Isaac Helger, a high school dropout striving to make a success of himself in the inner-city Johannesburg neighborhood of Doornfontein. Isaac is motivated by the desire to purchase a proper home for his mother, Gitelle, who immigrated to South Africa after being scarred during a pogrom in the family’s native Lithuania. Isaac confronts one challenge after another in his quest for redemption as the growing threat of the Second World War darkens his world and threatens his extended family.
In the novel, Bonert succeeds in bringing to life the world of South African Jewry in all its raw energy with an ear for dialogue that captures the bawdy vernacular of South Africa’s diverse population.
Reviewers have unanimously praised the novel, which was just named recipient of a National Jewish Book Award for Outstanding Debut Fiction.
As a Wallant Award winner, Bonert joins a distinguished list of past award recipients, including Cynthia Ozick, Curt Leviant, Chaim Potok, Myla Goldberg, Dara Horn, Nicole Krauss, and Julie Orringer as well as last year’s award winner, Joshua Henkin. Established in 1963 by Dr. and Mrs. Irving Waltman of West Hartford to honor the memory of the late Edward Lewis Wallant, author of The Pawnbroker and other works of fiction, the Wallant Award is today one of the oldest and most prestigious Jewish literary awards in the United States. It is presented to an American Jewish writer, preferably unrecognized, whose published work of fiction is deemed to have significance for the American Jew.
The Greenberg Center will also mark the 50th anniversary of the Edward Lewis Wallant Award, with the publication of a Wallant Award anthology of past winners and finalists, titled The New Diaspora: The Changing Landscape of American Jewish Fiction, edited by Victoria Aarons (Trinity University), Mark Shechner (University of New York at Buffalo) and Avinoam Patt (University of Hartford). In recognition of the trajectory and development of American Jewish writing in the 50 years since the award was established, the volume reflects the breadth and ongoing vitality of the fiction written by and about Jews in America.
Admission to the Wallant Award presentation ceremony is free and open to the public, but reservations are required. For information or reservations call (860) 768-4964 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. The ceremony will be held in the Wilde Auditorium of the university’s Harry Jack Gray Center, 200 Bloomfield Ave., West Hartford.
For more information on the Edward Lewis Wallant Award, visit www.hartford.edu/greenberg/wallant.asp.