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Author Michael Crummey (Mo Pho)
Author Michael Crummey (Mo Pho)

Governor-General Literary Awards finalists unveiled Add to ...

The finalists for the Governor-General’s Literary Awards, Canada’s oldest literary prizes, were unveiled on Tuesday.

There are a lot of finalists.

This year’s juries – called “peer assessment committees” by the Canada Council for the Arts, which administers the prizes – considered 966 English-language titles and 637 French-language titles before choosing the finalists in each of the 14 categories, which range from fiction to drama to children’s literature.

The nominees for the English-language fiction prize, arguably the marquee award, are Michael Crummey for his novel Sweetland, about an elderly man who refuses to leave his Newfoundland hometown; Bill Gaston for his short-story collection Juliet Was a Surprise; Claire Holden Rothman for My October, which was longlisted for the Scotiabank Giller Prize last month; Thomas King for The Back of the Turtle, his first novel in more than a decade; and Joan Thomas for The Opening Sky, about a Manitoba couple dealing with their teenage daughter’s unexpected pregnancy.

Notably absent was Miriam Toews, whose novel All My Puny Sorrows is the only book to be shortlisted for both the Giller Prize and the Rogers Writers’ Trust Fiction Prize.

The French-language fiction nominees are Michael Delisle for Le Feu de mon père; Alain Farah for Pourquoi Bologne; Robert Lalonde for C’est le cœur qui meurt en dernier; Andrée A. Michaud for Bondrée; and Larry Tremblay for L’orangeraie.

The finalists for the English-language non-fiction prize are Michael Harris for The End of Absence: Reclaiming What We’ve Lost in a World of Constant Connection; Arno Kopecky for The Oil Man and the Sea: Navigating the Northern Gateway; Edmund Metatawabin and Alexandra Shimo for Up Ghost River: A Chief’s Journey Through the Turbulent Waters of Native History; and Maria Mutch for Know the Night: A Memoir of Survival in the Small Hours. On the French side, the nominees are Catherine Ferland and Dave Corriveau for La Corriveau: De l’histoire à la légende; Bertrand Gervais for Un défaut de fabrication; Nicolas Lévesque and Catherine Mavrikakis for Ce que dit l’écorce; Gabriel Nadeau-Dubois for Tenir tête; and Jean-Jacques Pelletier for Questions d’écriture: Réponses à des lecteurs.

In the category of English-language poetry, the finalists are Christopher Levenson for Night Vision; Garth Martens for Prologue for the Age of Consequence; Arleen Paré for Lake of Two Mountains; Sadiqa de Meijer for Leaving Howe Island; and Julie Joosten for Light Light. The French-language nominees are José Acquelin for Anarchie de la lumière; Joséphine Bacon for Un thé dans la toundra/Nipishapui nete mushuat; Paul Chanel Malenfant for Toujours jamais; Georgette LeBlanc for Prudent; and Julie Stanton for Mémorial pour Geneviève et autres tombeaux.

The English-language finalists for children’s literature (text) are Jonathan Auxier for The Night Gardener; Lesley Choyce for Jeremy Stone; Rachel and Sean Qitsualik-Tinsley for Skraelings; Raziel Reid for When Everything Feels like the Movies; and Mariko Tamaki for This One Summer, while the illustration nominees are Marie-Louise Gay for Any Questions?; Qin Leng for Hana Hashimoto, Sixth Violin; Renata Liwska for Once Upon a Memory; Julie Morstad for Julia, Child; and Jillian Tamaki for This One Summer.

The French-language finalists for children’s literature (text) are Linda Amyot for Le jardin d’Amsterdam; India Desjardins for Le Noël de Marguerite; Patrick Isabelle for Eux; Jean-François Sénéchal for Feu; and Mélanie Tellier for Fiona. The French-language finalists for children’s literature (illustration) are Pascal Blanchet for Le Noël de Marguerite; Marianne Dubuc for Le lion et l’oiseau; Manon Gauthier for Grand-mère, elle et moi…; Isabelle Malenfant for Pablo trouve un trésor; and Pierre Pratt for Gustave.

This year’s English-language drama nominees are Rick Chafe for The Secret Mask; Sean Dixon for A God in Need of Help; Janet Munsil for That Elusive Spark; and Jordan Tannahill for Age of Minority: Three Solo Plays. The French-language nominees are François Archambault for Tu te souviendras de moi; Simon Boudreault for As is (tel quel); Carole Fréchette for Small Talk; Olivier Kemeid for Moi, dans les ruines rouges du siècle; and Étienne Lepage for Histoires pour faire des cauchemars.

The nominees for French-to-English translation are Peter Feldstein for Paul-Émile Borduas: A Critical Biography; Sheila Fischman for Wonder; Linda Gaboriau for Christina, The Girl King; Maureen Labonté for And Slowly Beauty; and Rhonda Mullins for Guyana. Finally, the nominees for English-to-French translation are Éric Fontaine for Les Blondes; Hervé Juste for Poisson d’avril; Daniel Poliquin for L’Indien malcommode: un portrait inattendu des Autochtones d’Amérique du Nord; Lori Saint-Martin and Paul Gagné for La femme Hokusai; and Lori Saint-Martin and Paul Gagné for Une brève histoire des Indiens au Canada.

While the Scotiabank Giller Prize was in the news last month when it doubled its purse to $140,000, making it one of the richest prizes in Canada, it’s worth noting that the Governor-General’s Literary Awards hand out almost half a million dollars to authors each fall. The winners in each category receive $25,000, while each finalist receives $1,000. Additionally, the publisher of each winning title is awarded $3,000 to help promote the book.

The winners will be announced Nov. 18.

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