Nanaimo-born writer Tamas Dobozy has brought the short story back to the centre of Canadian literature by prevailing over four novelists to win the $25,000 Rogers Writers' Trust Fiction Prize for Siege 13, a collection of linked stories documenting the Soviet siege of Budapest in the closing days of the Second World War.
Little-known to Canadian readers prior to the publication of his latest book, Dobozy came to prominence this fall when Siege 13 appeared among the finalists for both the Writers' Trust prize and the Governor-General's Literary Award for Fiction, which is scheduled to be presented next week.
"Siege 13 spans continents and decades, and in doing so illustrates once again that old maxim: The short story can be both as broad and as deep as a novel," the Writers' Trust jury said in its citation. "These stories are never less than breathtaking."
Currently living in southern Ontario, where he teaches English at Wilfrid Laurier University, Dobozy won the first Fulbright Research Chair in Creative Writing at New York University in 2009 and was awarded an O. Henry Prize two years later for his story, The Restoration of the Villa Where Tibor Kallman Once Lived.
With his persistent focus on Hungarian themes and settings, Dobozy typifies the new generation of writers stretching Canadian literature into a distinctly cosmopolitan enterprise. "Home is an odd concept" for someone like him, Dobozy once told an interviewer, "because I never felt as if I fit very well into either country – Hungary or Canada.
"I think that's a metaphor for a lot of things in my writing," he added, "and maybe even for the writing itself, which flits between various genres, and which doesn't really have an easy set of allegiances or connections to other traditions of writing, but tends to borrow from all over the place."
Siege 13 prevailed over novels by authors Alix Ohlin, Linda Spalding, Rawi Hage and Tim Bowling to win this year's prize at a ceremony in Toronto Wednesday evening.
The group also honoured Ontario novelist Nino Ricci with the $25,000 Engel/Findley Award, presented annually for a body of work. The $20,000 Matt Cohen Award "in celebration of a writing life" went to children's writer Jean Little, while Paul Yee won the $20,000 Vicky Metcalf Award for Children's Literature. Alex Pugsley won the group's $10,000 Journey Prize for best Canadian short story of the year.