Toronto author David Gilmour won the English fiction category at the Governor-General's Literary Awards Wednesday, while Montreal's Aki Shimazaki won in the French category, at a ceremony in Montreal honouring the best in Canadian writing.
Mr. Gilmour was lauded for his novel, A Perfect Night to Go to China, while Ms. Shimazaki's book, Hotaru, was chosen as the best in French fiction.
The judges said Mr. Gilmour's book was a "melding of emotional power and narrative ingenuity...it is imbued with the tension of a suppressed sob."
His book faced some stiff competition. It was pitted against Joseph Boyden's Three Day Road, Golda Fried's Nellcott Is My Darling, Charlotte Gill's Ladykiller and Kathy Page's Alphabet.
Ms. Shimazaki's book, meanwhile, which tells the story of a girl and her grandmother, was "an enigma and a story of love and betrayal," the judges found.
In all, 42 novelists, poets, dramatists, essayists, translators, childrens' writers and illustrators were on the short-list for the awards. A total of 69 books were nominated for this year's awards, in seven categories in both French and English.
Non-fiction winners were Vancouver's John Vaillant for The Golden Spruce: A True Story of Myth, Madness and Greed (English), and Ottawa's Michel Bock, for Quand la nation débordait les frontière : les minorités françaises dans la pensée de Lionel Groulx (French).
Mr. Vaillant's book describes the struggle between a maverick logger and a 300-year-old tree on the Queen Charlotte Islands in British Columbia, while Mr. Bock's considers the question of French minorities in Canada.
In poetry, Anne Compton won in the English category for Processional, while Jean-Marc Desgent won in the French category for Vingtièmes siècles.
"This is a brilliant, cruel and troubling work," the judges said of Mr. Desgent's submission.
The winners were announced by Canada Council for the Arts vice-chairman, Simon Brault, and Melanie Rutledge, its head of writing and publishing, at a news conference in Montreal Wednesday morning.
They will receive their awards at a special ceremony presided over by Governor-General Michaëlle Jean at Rideau Hall in Ottawa next week. Each receives a cheque for $15,000 and another $3,000 from the Canada Council to support promotional opportunities for their novel.
Ms. Jean said Wednesday that books "hold a special place in my life...While writing is a solitary pursuit, that solitude is broken when readers hold a book in their hands and filter it through their own life experiences.
"I salute our authors and warmly congratulate this year's winners."
The winners will also be honoured in the House of Commons on Nov. 23 by Speaker Peter Milliken.
In all, 1,488 titles were submitted to the Canada Council for the Arts for consideration, including 888 in English and 600 in French.
Other winners Drama: English: John Mighton, Toronto, for H alf Life French: Geneviève Billette, Montreal, for Le Pays des genoux
Children's Literature - Text English: Pamela Porter, Sidney, B.C., for The Crazy Man French: Camille Bouchard, Quebec City, for Le ricanement des hyènes
Children's Literature - Illustration English: Rob Gonsalves, Mallorytown, Ont., for Imagine a Day French: Isabelle Arsenault, Montreal, for Le coeur de monsieur Gaugin
Translation: English: Fred A. Reed, Montreal, for Truth or Death: The Quest for Immortality in the Western Narrative Tradition French: Rachel Martinez, Quebec City, for Glenn Gould: une vie