Atonement author Ian McEwan has been chosen as this year’s winner of the prestigious Jerusalem Prize literary honor. The biennial award is Israel’s highest literary tribute for foreign writers.
The award is given to an author whose works best exemplify the “freedom of the individual in society.” The “modest” monetary value of the prize money, $10,000, is intended to reflect its symbolic nature.
McEwan is the author of books including Saturday, Amsterdam, Atonement and The Comfort of Strangers.
The jury said: “McEwan’s protagonists struggle for their right to give personal expression to their ideas, and to live according to those ideas in an environment of political and social turmoil. His obvious affection for them, and the compelling manner in which he describes their struggle, make him one of the most important writers of our time.”
The prize will be presented to the British author at the 25th Jerusalem International Book Fair on February 20.
Previous recipients of the prize include Bertrand Russell, Simone de Beauvoir, Arthur Miller and Haruki Murakami.
Upon news of McEwan’s win, The Guardian newspaper asked him whether he would accept the award, citing that previous winners came under pressure from supporters of the Palestinian cause to refuse it as a gesture of solidarity.
McEwan told the newspaper: “I certainly will accept the prize. It is a highly distinguished award and I am honored to join the backlist of writers who are previous winners.”
The Jerusalem Prize will join McEwan’s growing collection including the Booker, the Whitbread novel award, the Somerset Maugham prize, the WH Smith literary award, the Prix Femina Étranger, the German Shakespeare prize, among others.