Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Governor General’s Literary Award Winners Announced

The names of the 2011 winners of Canada’s most prestigious literary prize, the Governor General’s Literary Award, were announced this morning. The 14 winners -- one French, one English in seven categories -- each take home $25,0000.

In addition to the monetary award, each winner will receive a specially-bound copy of the winning book, created by Montreal bookbinder Lise Dubois. The publisher of each winning book receives $3,000 to support promotional activities. Non‑winning finalists receive $1,000 in recognition of their selection as finalists, bringing the total value of the awards to approximately $450,000.

Though there were few surprises in the awards 75th winning field, there were many firsts and 11 of the 14 winners were first time winners.

In a somewhat ironic turn, winner Charles Foran is being celebrated for his work on a book about a past Governor General Award winner, Canadian author Mordecai Richler who won in 1968 and 1971.

Also noteworthy, the winning author in the French-language non-fiction category, Georges Leroux, also wrote the original version of the book translated by Donald Winkler, which is this year’s winner in the translation (French to English) category. This is the first time this has happened since the translation category was created in 1987.

The seven English and seven French awards are given to authors, illustrators and translators in the categories of fiction, poetry, drama, non‑fiction, children’s literature (text and illustration) and translation. The names of the winners and titles of their works are listed below along with peer assessment committee members’ comments for each work, supplied by the Canada Council.

His Excellency the Right Honourable David Johnston, Governor General of Canada, will present the Awards on Thursday, November 24 at Ottawa’s Rideau Hall, the official residence and workplace of the governor general.

The 2011 Governor General’s Award Winners


Patrick deWitt, The Sisters Brothers (House of Anansi Press)
Brothers Eli and Charlie Sisters are at the centre of this “great greedy heart” of a book. A rollicking tale of hired guns, faithful horses and alchemy. The ingenious prose of Patrick DeWitt conveys a dark and gentle touch.

Perrine Leblanc, L’homme blanc (Le Quartanier)
In L’homme blanc, Perrine Leblanc invites us to travel to a period in history in which a profoundly human character achieves universal status. This novel teaches us that we can never predict destiny, and that even white itself can have varying degrees of whiteness.


Phil Hall, Killdeer (BookThug)
Killdeer by Phil Hall realizes a masterly modulation of the elegiac through poetic time. It releases the personal from the often binding axis of the egoistic into that kind of humility that only a profound love of language – and of living – can achieve.

Louise Dupré, Plus haut que les flammes (Éditions du Noroît)
Plus haut que les flammes is a collection of admirable restraint, where the everyday is interspersed with memories of the death camps of Auschwitz and Birkenau. Louise Dupré explores and questions the experience of pain evoked by places of extreme horror, and uncovers a deeply human truth.


Erin Shields, If We Were Birds (Playwrights Canada Press)
If We Were Birds is a bold and brilliant retelling of a classical myth. The language is poetic and contemporary. Erin Shields creates a haunting and viscerally impactful play about the sexual politics of war. She invites us into a world of complicated family relationships, dangerous sexuality, revenge and fierce loyalty.

Normand Chaurette, Ce qui meurt en dernier (Leméac Éditeur / Actes Sud)
With Ce qui meurt en dernier, Normand Chaurette creates disturbing and mysterious moods in a polished, chiselled language. His almost surgical style paints the portrait of a woman who struggles with her desire to please. The beauty of the writing serves the play’s thesis wonderfully.


Charles Foran, Mordecai: The Life & Times (Alfred A. Knopf Canada)
Mordecai: The Life & Times by Charles Foran is biography as high art, illuminating not only the character of Canada’s most provocative writer, but also, in the most vivid and compelling fashion, the times and places in which he lived. This is a grand, sweeping work that sets the standard for future literary biography.

Georges Leroux, Wanderer : essai sur le Voyage d’hiver de Franz Schubert (Éditions Nota bene)
Almost a year after Beethoven’s death, Schubert, suffering from a concealed affliction, saw his own death approaching. Winter Journey is the pretext for a fine requiem in white that Georges Leroux has penned in a lovely, pitch-perfect book. Musing on human suffering as a philosopher, incorporating poetry and photography, the author gives us a sumptuous meditation on existence.

Children’s Literature — Text:

Christopher Moore, From Then to Now: A Short History of the World (Tundra Books)
From Then to Now: A Short History of the World, by Christopher Moore, is a fascinating examination of the evolution of human civilization that is global in its span and inclusive in its outlook. The energetic narrative tells a story that rivals the very best fiction.

Martin Fournier, Les aventures de Radisson - 1. L’enfer ne brûle pas (Les éditions du Septentrion)
With Les aventures de Radisson, Martin Fournier skilfully measures the suspense of his tale, and more than succeeds in transcending the dryness of a historical character. He depicts the adventures of Radisson, the rebellious adolescent who will pay for his boldness. An almost ethnological initiation into the Iroquois culture of the time – the French language at its best.

Children’s Literature — Illustration:

Cybèle Young, Ten Birds, text by Cybèle Young (Kids Can Press)
Ten Birds is a whimsical, surreal visual riddle. A disarmingly simple story becomes a complex discussion of the adjectives used to “pigeon-hole” individuals in society. Cybèle Young’s beautifully crafted pen and ink images describe a journey to simply cross a river. Ironically none of the birds can fly, but ultimately the simplest answer may be the best.

Caroline Merola, Lili et les poilus, text by Caroline Merola (Dominique et Compagnie, a division of Éditions Héritage)
By playing with a familiar theme, Caroline Merola succeeds in drawing us into her universe filled with astonishing contrasts. She stages simply-drawn characters in a lush, generous forest. Lili et les poilus is a work full of dynamic compositions, with profound and luminous colours that are applied with unbridled energy.


Donald Winkler, Partita for Glenn Gould (McGill-Queen’s University Press)
English translation of Partita pour Glenn Gould by Georges Leroux (Les Presses de l’Université de Montréal)
Partita for Glenn Gould, Donald Winkler’s translation of Georges Leroux’s brilliant essay, shines with the musicality of language that reflects Gould’s life and creative discovery. Winkler expresses the depth of feeling and baroque complexity of the original text with impressive sensitivity, dexterity and precision. A masterful performance, at once learned and lyrical, it is a tour de force.

Maryse Warda, Toxique ou L’incident dans l’autobus (Dramaturges Éditeurs)
French translation of The Toxic Bus Incident by Greg MacArthur
Toxique ou L’incident dans l’autobus is an effective and deftly-honed translation. The language is incisive, imbued with an oral character that is perfectly suited to the theatrical text, and skilfully renders the dense and sober style of the original. Maryse Warda says a great deal in few words, in language that delivers the essential.



Post a Comment

<< Home