Joshua Cohen and the late Winfred Rembert win the Pulitzer Prize for Art

NEW YORK (AP) — Joshua Cohen’s “The Netanyahu,” a comical and rigorous campus novel based on the true story of former Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s father who seeks a job in academia, has won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction won.

Benzion Netanyahu, who died in 2012, was a medieval historian and ultranationalist who taught at several American schools, including the University of Denver and Cornell University. Set around 1959-60, The Netanyahus focuses on a Jewish historian at a university loosely based on Cornell, who is asked to help decide whether to hire the visiting Israeli scholar. The novel, subtitled “An Account of a Minor and Ultimately Negligible Episode in the History of a Very Famous Family,” was highly acclaimed for its mixture of wit and intellectual debate on Zionism and Jewish identity.

“It’s exasperating, frustrating, pretentious work — and also engaging, delightful, hilarious, breathtaking, and the best and most relevant novel I’ve read in what feels like forever,” wrote Taffy Brodesser-Akner of The New York Times last June.

Many of Art Monday’s winners have been exploring race and class, past and present. Winners were also announced in several journalism categories.

James Ijames’ “Fat Ham,” an adaptation of Shakespeare’s “Hamlet,” set at a black family’s barbecue in the modern South, won the Pulitzer Prize for Drama. Raven Chacon, the first native composer to win a Pulitzer Prize, was honored in the music category for “Voiceless Mass.”

The late artist Winfred Rembert won in the biography for Chasing Me to My Grave: An Artist’s Memoir of the Jim Crow South, as told by Erin I. Kelly. Rembert, who survived several years in prison and a near-lynching in rural Georgia in the 1960s, died last year at the age of 75.

In an interview Monday, Kelly opened up about the book’s long and unexpected backstory. She is a professor of philosophy at Tufts University and came across his work a few years ago while working on another project on criminal justice. She contacted Rembert, who lived in New Haven, Connecticut, and found him so compelling that she wanted to make sure his life was properly documented.

“He was both charismatic and down to earth,” she said. “He had an incredible understanding of language and an incredible visual memory.”

Leave a Comment