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Anna Porter
Anna Porter

Anna Porter wins Shaughnessy Cohen Prize Add to ...

Toronto author Anna Porter has won the 11th annual Shaughnessy Cohen Prize for excellence in political writing for her book The Ghosts of Europe: Journeys through Central Europe's Troubled Past and Uncertain Future.

Porter received the $25,000 non-fiction prize at a ceremony on Wednesday evening in Ottawa. Her book, published last year, was one of five short-listed for the award by a jury of three Canadian journalists L. Ian MacDonald, Rosemary Speirs and Paul Wells.

The four runners-up, each of whom received $2,500, were Globe and Mail writers Doug Saunders and Lawrence Martin, nominated for, respectively, Arrival City: The Final Migration and Our Next World and Harperland: The Politics of Control, plus historians Shelagh D. Grant and Tim Cook, nominated for, respectively, Polar Imperative: A History of Arctic Sovereignty in North America and The Madman and the Butcher: The Sensational Wars of Sam Hughes and General Arthur Currie.

Porter, a Hungarian émigré, arrived in Canada in 1970 and went on to become a major player in Canadian publishing, serving as editor-in-chief and vice-president of McClelland & Stewart and co-founding Key Porter Books in the early 1980s. She has written three novels, the first published in 1985, but since 2000 she has concentrated on memoirs and non-fiction, including 2007's Kasztner's Train: The True Story of Reznö Kasztner, Unknown Hero of the Holocaust, a finalist for the $25,000 Charles Taylor Prize for excellence in literary non-fiction.

In their citation for The Ghosts of Europe, the Shaughnessy Cohen jurors lauded Porter for being both a skilled journalist "on a personal journey back to her own origins" and "a gifted storyteller who shapes a historically consequential narrative."

The prize, started in 2000 and administered by the Writers' Trust of Canada, is named after the late Liberal MP Shaughnessy Cohen (1948-1998) and is dedicated to honouring books devoted to important topics of interest to Canadians. About 500 invited guests attended Wednesday's event, raising close to $250,000 for the Writers' Trust.

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