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Jewish themes abound among book award finalists

JTA

February 7, 2011 | 1:01 pm

Jewish themes abound among National Book Critics Circle award finalists.

Among the five fiction finalists are Israeli author David Grossman’s “To the End of the Land” and “Comedy in a Minor Key,” by Hans Keilson, a German-born Jew now living in the Netherlands.

The awards will be handed out in New York on March 10.

“The two books complement each other, as Keilson tells the story of a young Dutch couple hiding a Jewish boy during World War II and Grossman flashes forward to contemporary Israel, where a woman whose son is in the army refuses to wait at home for bad news and instead hikes in the Galilee,” National Book Critics Circle vice president Barbara Hoffert wrote recently on her blog.

Another finalist is Jonathan Franzen’s “Freedom,” a family drama that treats, among other contemporary themes, Jews in the neoconservative movement.

Israeli author Tom Segev’s biography of Nazi hunter Simon Wiesenthal, “The Lives and Legends,” is among five biography finalists.

Among the five autobiography finalists are Kai Bird’s “Crossing Mandelbaum Gate: Coming of Age Between the Arabs and Israelis, 1956-1978,” about a childhood spent as the child of a U.S. diplomat in divided Jerusalem, and “Hitch-22,” in which essayist Christopher Hitchens discusses his discovery in adulthood that his mother was Jewish.

The National Book Critics Circle, comprising 600 reviewers, was founded in 1974 at New York’s legendary Algonquin Hotel.

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