Jay Gao – John Hawkes Prize, 2021

“Judith and Judith” suggests the Northern and Eastern European lineage of the novel. There is in its sudden relationship angst and unexplained medical travails, in its cultural mix of painting and theater, something of Dostoevsky, Tulli, Schulz, Cusk, and Calvino. The voice is urbane, wonderfully understated, and witty; the story is anti-causal (characters appear and disappear, conflicts go unresolved); the writing is always sharp, and the existentialism is always acute. We can see into the surface of “Judith and Judith,” even if down below there is a more unruly dream work. This is a fiction of beguiling double exposures.