Six authors from across Canada will be packing their tuxedos and gowns to attend the Scotiabank Giller Prize gala on Nov. 18.
The shortlist for Canada’s richest and glitziest fiction prize was announced in Toronto on Monday. It includes writers from Newfoundland to Vancouver Island, with cross-country Canadian settings to match. “The local definitely dominates,” said juror Donna Bailey Nurse of the shortlist, “but a great story also gestures outward toward the wider world in some way.”
The 2019 Giller shortlist is: David Bezmozgis for his story collection Immigrant City (HarperCollins Publishers, read our review); Megan Gail Coles for her debut novel Small Game Hunting at the Local Coward Gun Club (House of Anansi, read our review); Michael Crummey for his novel The Innocents (Doubleday Canada, read an interview with the author); Alix Ohlin for Dual Citizens (House of Anansi, read our review); Steven Price for Lampedusa (McClelland & Stewart, read our review); and Ian Williams for his debut, Reproduction (Random House Canada, read an interview with the author).
Of the six nominees for the $100,000 prize, five are well known in other creative arenas: Bezmozgis as a filmmaker and screenwriter; Coles as a playwright; and Crummey, Price and Williams as poets. “We are a jury that’s really engaged in the world of the story,”Nurse said. “These books appeal to our senses. I like stories that are in conversation with other stories.”
This will be Bezmozgis’s third journey to the Giller Prize gala as a nominee. He has been shortlisted twice previously for his two novels, though, it was a story collection, Natasha and Other Stories (also about immigrants in and on their way to Canada), that brought him to international attention as a fiction writer.
Coles and Williams both appear on the shortlist with debuts. Coles’s Small Game Hunting at the Local Coward Gun Club is the complex and sometimes tragic story of a group of young, emotionally wounded characters in a February in St. John’s. Williams’s mathematically structured Reproduction is the story of an unconventional blended family in Brampton, Ont., over a 40-year period.
Ohlin’s third novel, Dual Citizens, set in the author’s native Montreal as well as New York, is a story about sibling bonds, mother-daughter relationships and self-knowledge.
Crummey and Price both make the list for historical novels inspired by true events. The Innocents is the tale of two siblings orphaned and surviving in isolation in a Newfoundland cove in the late 18th century. In Lampedusa, Price tells a story within a story as he traces the final days of Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa as the Italian writer struggles to complete his now classic novel, The Leopard.
Crummey and Ohlin are also in the running for the $50,000 Rogers Writers’ Trust Fiction Prize, whose shortlist was announced Sept. 24.
For the six shortlisted Giller authors, the so-called “Giller Effect” now comes into play. Sales increased an average of 193 per cent across all shortlisted titles in 2018, for example, and 433 per cent in 2017, according to statistics provided by SalesData, BookNet Canada’s national sales-tracking service for the English-language print trade market.
The Giller Prize shortlist was culled from a long list of 12 that was announced Sept. 3.
Notably, two former Giller winners on that list, André Alexis and Margaret Atwood, did not make the cut. Novels by Michael Christie and Adam Foulds, and story collections by K.D. Miller and Zalika Reid-Benta had also appeared on the long list, but did not make the final six.
The shortlist was announced by the five-member jury: Canadian authors Nurse and Randy Boyagoda, Canadian playwright José Teodoro, Scottish Sierra-Leonean author Aminatta Forna, and Bosnian-American author Aleksandar Hemon.
The nominees will take part in a cross-Canada tour between Oct. 16 and 28, with an additional event in New York on Oct. 30.
The winner will be announced at the televised gala in Toronto on Nov. 18. The winner will receive $100,000 and each finalist will get $10,000. Esi Edugyan won the 2018 Scotiabank Giller Prize for her novel Washington Black.
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