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Joel Thomas Hynes has won the Governor-General's Literary Award for English-language fiction.

The winners of this year's Governor-General's Literary Awards, among the oldest and most prestigious writing prizes in Canada, were announced on Wednesday.

The English-language fiction prize went to Joel Thomas Hynes for his We'll All Be Burnt in Our Beds Some Night, described by the jury as a "hilarious yet disturbing" novel about a man on a cross-Canada road trip with his girlfriend's ashes. The jury – writers Robert Hough, Padma Viswanathan and Darren Greer – called the novel "an act of full-throttle imagination and narrative invention" and "unforgettable, tragic and ultimately transcendent."

An actor and author, playwright and director, Hynes has long been one of the most interesting – and versatile – artists in Canada. His novels include Down to the Dirt – adapted into a feature film in which he starred – and Right Away Monday, and he's appeared on a variety of TV shows, including Republic of Doyle and Orphan Black. We'll All Be Burnt in Our Beds Some Night was longlisted for the Scotiabank Giller Prize earlier this fall.

The awards, which were established in 1936, recognizes authors and artists in seven different categories, each producing a French- and English-language winner who receive $25,000.

As for the English-language winners, author and journalist Graeme Wood won the non-fiction award for his "meticulously researched and fluidly written" book The Way of the Strangers: Encounters with the Islamic State.

Calgary's Richard Harrison won the poetry prize for On Not Losing My Father's Ashes in the Flood, which the jury described as "moving poems about the father/son relationship set against the Alberta flood of 2013."

The drama prize went to actor and playwright Hiro Kanagawa for his "heartbreaking" and "poetic" play Indian Arm, about a family living in an isolated cabin north of Vancouver.

Cherie Dimaline's novel The Marrow Thieves – which the jury called "speculative fiction with chilling immediacy" – was recognized in the category of Young People's Literature Award (Text) while David Alexander Robertson and Julie Flett's When We Were Alone took home the prize in Young People's Literature (Illustrated Books).

Finally, the prize for French-to-English translation was awarded to Oana Avasilichioaei for Readopolis, her translation of Bertrand Laverdure's Lectodôme.

The winners of this year's awards "reflect the soaring literary ambitions of the writers, translators, illustrators and publishers," Simon Brault, director and CEO of the Canada Council for the Arts, said in a statement. "They dispense the essential doses of Canadian imagination, fantasy, ideas, dreams and analysis that a growing number of readers are appreciating and celebrating."

British writer Kazuo Ishiguro wins the Nobel Prize for Literature, marking a return to traditional interpretations of the prize after singer-songwriter Bob Dylan won last year.


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