Handicapping the nominees for the Scotiabank Giller Prize just became a lot more complicated.
For the first time in its history, the winner of the annual fiction prize will be chosen by a five-person jury, it was announced on Wednesday.
"I like the idea of having more voices in the mix – I think it makes for a more vibrant conversation," said Elana Rabinovitch, the prize's executive director. "I think that it will be a little bit more lively. Louder, probably."
Until this year, the winner of the Giller, Canada's pre-eminent literary award, was chosen by a three-person jury. This year's jury, on the other hand, features Alexander MacLeod, whose debut short-story collection, Light Lifting, was a finalist for the prize in 2010; Alison Pick, whose books include the Man Booker Prize-nominated novel Far to Go and the 2014 memoir Between Gods; Cecil Foster, the Barbadian-Canadian author of 12 books, including the 2014 novel Independence; Helen Oyeyemi, the British author of five novels, including 2014's Boy, Snow, Bird; and John Boyne, the author of several novels for adults and young readers, including The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas. Boyne will serve as jury chair. (The chair, Rabinovitch noted, has "an equal voice in the deliberations," but will be tasked with ensuring "the conversation is centred around simply the best book, rather than any other considerations that sometimes come into play.")
While in the early years of the prize the jury was comprised entirely of Canadians – the majority of whom were writers – since 2008 the jury has grown more international in scope. In fact, 2014 was the first year in which not a single member of the jury resided in Canada, although author Shauna Singh Baldwin, who lives in Milwaukee, Wis., is Canadian.
In addition to writers (Alice Munro, Margaret Atwood and the late Alistair MacLeod – Alexander MacLeod's father – all served more than once), the jury has featured broadcasters (Michael Enright and Peter Gzowski), a bookseller (Judith Mappin), a politician (Bob Rae), a former governor-general (Adrienne Clarkson) and a Supreme Court justice (Rosalie Abella).
"I don't know if [having five jurors] is going to change the spirit of the Giller," Rabinovitch said. "I think that there will be, as there was with three jurors, a lively debate about the long list, short list and the winner."
This year marks the 22nd anniversary of the prize, which was founded by Jack Rabinovitch in honour of his late wife, the literary journalist Doris Giller. Sean Michaels won last year's $100,000 prize for his novel Us Conductors.