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‘Found treasure’ book 'No place to lay one’s head' wins the JQ-Wingate prize 2019

A poignant love letter to literature’ – Clare Mulley, Spectator, Books of the Year

No place to lay one's head, Françoise Felken's astonishing posthumously published novel, was awarded the 2019 42nd Jewish Quarterly-Wingate Prize. This literary prize is delivered annually to the best books, fiction or non-fiction, of Jewish interest for the general reader. It was already highlighted by the BBC 4 as Book of the Week.

In this gripping memoir of a Jewish woman’s struggle to survive during World War II, François Frenkel tells her own story of how she escaped Berlin for France in 1939, before fleeing once more for Switzerland. Her account of her desperate flight from the Nazis was first printed in 1945 but vanished from public view until 2010. Indeed, her book was rediscovered that year in a flea market, and has now been published in numerous languages for the first time; in France by Gallimard in 2015 under its French title Rien où poser sa tête, and in the UK by Pushkin Press in 2018, 43 years after the author’s death. Very little is known about Françoise Frenkel’s life, which makes this extraordinary memoir all the more revealing. Frenkel was running a bookshop in Berlin for nearly two decades before The Night of the Broken Glass destroyed her business. Forced to flee, she recounts her desperate search for refuge, her years in hiding, and her survival due to the incredible bravery of others. A tale of human cruelty and unending kindness, No Place to Lay One’s Head is an unforgettable story of courage and resilience.

Described by judges as ‘a found treasure… filled with wisdom and hope’, Frenkel’s memoir was chosen from a short list which also included The Immortalists by Chloe Benjamin; Asymmetry by Lisa Halliday; Eternal Life by Dara Horn; Evacuation by Raphael Jerusalmy (translated by Penny Hueston) and Memento Park by Mark Sarvas.

We warmly recommend this incredible book, masterfully translated by Stephanie Smee.

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