Scotiabank Giller Prize Gala, Toronto
Reproduction, from first-time novelist Ian Williams, took home this year’s Scotiabank Giller prize on Nov. 18. But before the CBC’s cameras started rolling and the big announcement was made, Canada’s literary players and enthusiasts gathered in black tie for drinks and dinner to celebrate the 26th edition of the award. This year, the change of venue and neighbourhood was a homecoming of sorts, with the Giller gang returning uptown to the Four Seasons Hotel where it was (although in a former incarnation a bit further west) long held. In the early days, about 150 attended the gala, but as the prize grew in influence and size ($25,000 then and $100,000 now) so did the guest list, topping out at about 500 last year. This year, uptown, the gathering proved to be a slightly more intimate gathering (or as intimate as things can get with TV cranes swinging about), with 450 holding court inside the hotel’s ballroom.
Out at this latest was 1996 Giller-winner Margaret Atwood, who turned 80 the day of the gala, and made her way into the remarks of both Jann Arden, who was enlisted to host the televised portion of the eve, as well as winner Williams, who noted that the first book he bought with his own cash in his hometown of Brampton, Ont., was one of Atwood’s. Giller shortlisted writers David Bezmozgis, Michael Crummey, Megan Gail Coles, Alix Ohlin and Steven Price, were of course all in attendance, each dotting tables near the stage, which were populated with their loved ones, publishers and sponsors of the event. Sitting nearby was the 2019 Giller jury, made up of authors Donna Bailey Nurse, Randy Boyagoda, Aminatta Forna and Aleksandar Hemon and playwright Jose Teodoro.
Also at the event: Esi Edugyan who won the 2018 Scotiabank Giller Prize for Washington Black; Scott Griffin, founder of the Griffin Trust, and his wife, Krystyne, who were among the first to congratulate Williams, on his win; the Honourable Justice Rosalie Silberman Abella; the Right Honourable Adrienne Clarkson; CBC president and CEO Catherine Tait; Former Ontario premiers Bob Rae and David Peterson; Penguin Random House Canada CEO Kristin Cochrane; Senator Pamela Wallin; Scotiabank’s executive vice-president of retail distribution John Doig; and of course, Giller executive director Elana Rabinovitch.