Tuesday 15 November 2011

Mordecai makes Charles Foran a Governor General's Literary Awardwinner

Congratulations to Charles Foran, Winner of the 75th Governor General's Literary Awards for Nonfiction. Mr. Foran is honoured for his recent biography of Mordecai Richler, a double GG Award Winner himself (for fiction in 1968 and 1971), Mordecai: The Life & Times.

For my look at the book, please see "A Feminist Jewess on Charles Foran's Mordecai: The Life & Times."

From the press release:

The Canada Council funds, administers and promotes the Governor General's Literary Awards, Canada's oldest and most prestigious awards for English- and French-language Canadian literature. In addition to the monetary award, each winner will receive a specially-bound copy of the winning book, created by Montreal bookbinder Lise Dubois. The publisher of each winning book receives $3,000 to support promotional activities. Non-winning finalists receive $1,000 in recognition of their selection as finalists, bringing the total value of the awards to approximately $450,000.

His Excellency the Right Honourable David Johnston, Governor General of Canada, will present the Awards on Thursday, November 24 at 6 p.m. at Rideau Hall. Media representatives wishing to cover the awards presentation should contact Christelle Legault at the Rideau Hall Press Office, (613) 998-7280 or christelle.legault@gg.ca."

Also from the GG website, all the winners & the committees that chose them:



Patrick deWitt, Portland (Oregon) [originally from Vancouver Island], The Sisters Brothers
(House of Anansi Press; distributed by HarperCollins Canada)

Brothers Eli and Charlie Sisters are at the centre of this “great greedy heart” of a book. A rollicking tale of hired guns, faithful horses and alchemy. The ingenious prose of Patrick DeWitt conveys a dark and gentle touch.

Perrine Leblanc, Montreal, L’homme blanc
(Le Quartanier; distributed by Diffusion Dimedia)

In L’homme blanc, Perrine Leblanc invites us to travel to a period in history in which a profoundly human character achieves universal status. This novel teaches us that we can never predict destiny, and that even white itself can have varying degrees of whiteness.


Phil Hall, Perth (Ontario), Killdeer
(BookThug; distributed by Literary Press Group)

Killdeer by Phil Hall realizes a masterly modulation of the elegiac through poetic time. It releases the personal from the often binding axis of the egoistic into that kind of humility that only a profound love of language – and of living – can achieve.

Louise Dupré, Montreal, Plus haut que les flammes
(Éditions du Noroît; distributed by Diffusion Dimedia)

Plus haut que les flammes is a collection of admirable restraint, where the everyday is interspersed with memories of the death camps of Auschwitz and Birkenau. Louise Dupré explores and questions the experience of pain evoked by places of extreme horror, and uncovers a deeply human truth.


Erin Shields, Toronto, If We Were Birds
(Playwrights Canada Press; distributed by University of Toronto Press)

If We Were Birds is a bold and brilliant retelling of a classical myth. The language is poetic and contemporary. Erin Shields creates a haunting and viscerally impactful play about the sexual politics of war. She invites us into a world of complicated family relationships, dangerous sexuality, revenge and fierce loyalty.

Normand Chaurette, Montreal, Ce qui meurt en dernier
(Leméac Éditeur / Actes Sud; distributed by Socadis)

With Ce qui meurt en dernier, Normand Chaurette creates disturbing and mysterious moods in a polished, chiselled language. His almost surgical style paints the portrait of a woman who struggles with her desire to please. The beauty of the writing serves the play’s thesis wonderfully.


Charles Foran, Peterborough (Ontario), Mordecai: The Life & Times
(Alfred A. Knopf Canada; distributed by Random House of Canada)

Mordecai: The Life & Times by Charles Foran is biography as high art, illuminating not only the character of Canada’s most provocative writer, but also, in the most vivid and compelling fashion, the times and places in which he lived. This is a grand, sweeping work that sets the standard for future literary biography.

Georges Leroux, Montreal, Wanderer : essai sur le Voyage d’hiver
de Franz Schubert
(Éditions Nota bene; distributed by Socadis)

Almost a year after Beethoven’s death, Schubert, suffering from a concealed affliction, saw his own death approaching. Winter Journey is the pretext for a fine requiem in white that Georges Leroux has penned in a lovely, pitch-perfect book. Musing on human suffering as a philosopher, incorporating poetry and photography, the author gives us a sumptuous meditation on existence.

Children’s Literature — Text

Christopher Moore, Toronto, From Then to Now: A Short History of the World
(Tundra Books; distributed by Random House of Canada)

From Then to Now: A Short History of the World, by Christopher Moore, is a fascinating examination of the evolution of human civilization that is global in its span and inclusive in its outlook. The energetic narrative tells a story that rivals the very best fiction.

Martin Fournier, Québec, Les aventures de Radisson - 1. L’enfer ne brûle pas
(Les éditions du Septentrion; distributed by Diffusion Dimedia)

With Les aventures de Radisson, Martin Fournier skilfully measures the suspense of his tale, and more than succeeds in transcending the dryness of a historical character. He depicts the adventures of Radisson, the rebellious adolescent who will pay for his boldness. An almost ethnological initiation into the Iroquois culture of the time – the French language at its best.

Children’s Literature — Illustration

Cybèle Young, Toronto, Ten Birds, text by Cybèle Young
(Kids Can Press; distributed by University of Toronto Press)

Ten Birds is a whimsical, surreal visual riddle. A disarmingly simple story becomes a complex discussion of the adjectives used to
“pigeon-hole” individuals in society. Cybèle Young’s beautifully crafted pen and ink images describe a journey to simply cross a river. Ironically none of the birds can fly, but ultimately the simplest answer may be the best.

Caroline Merola, Montreal, Lili et les poilus, text by Caroline Merola
(Dominique et Compagnie, a division of Éditions Héritage; distributed by Messageries ADP, Groupe Sogides)

By playing with a familiar theme, Caroline Merola succeeds in drawing us into her universe filled with astonishing contrasts. She stages simply-drawn characters in a lush, generous forest. Lili et les poilus is a work full of dynamic compositions, with profound and luminous colours that are applied with unbridled energy.


Donald Winkler, Montreal, Partita for Glenn Gould
(McGill-Queen’s University Press; distributed by Georgetown Terminal Warehouses)
English translation of Partita pour Glenn Gould by Georges Leroux
(Les Presses de l’Université de Montréal)

Partita for Glenn Gould, Donald Winkler’s translation of
Georges Leroux’s brilliant essay, shines with the musicality of language that reflects Gould’s life and creative discovery. Winkler expresses the depth of feeling and baroque complexity of the original text with impressive sensitivity, dexterity and precision. A masterful performance, at once learned and lyrical, it is a tour de force.

Maryse Warda, Montreal, Toxique ou L’incident dans l’autobus
(Dramaturges Éditeurs; distributed by Diffusion Dimedia)
French translation of The Toxic Bus Incident by Greg MacArthur

Toxique ou L’incident dans l’autobus is an effective and deftly-honed translation. The language is incisive, imbued with an oral character that is perfectly suited to the theatrical text, and skilfully renders the dense and sober style of the original. Maryse Warda says a great deal in few words, in language that delivers the essential.

The peer assessment committees

The winners for the Governor General’s Literary Awards are chosen by peer assessment committees (seven English and seven French) appointed by the Canada Council. The committees, which meet separately, consider all eligible books published between September 1, 2010 and September 30, 2011 for English-language books and between July 1, 2010 and June 30, 2011 for French-language books. This year, 1002 titles in the English-language categories and 682 titles in the French-language categories were submitted.

English-language committees

Fiction: Douglas Arthur Brown (Ross Ferry, N.S.), Peter Oliva (Calgary), Kerri Sakamoto (Toronto)
Poetry: Joanne Arnott (Richmond, BC), Stephen McCaffery
(Buffalo, New York), Douglas Burnet Smith (Antigonish, N.S.)
Drama: Christian Barry (Halifax), Lisa Codrington (Toronto),
Eugene Stickland (Calgary)
Non-fiction: Emma LaRocque (Winnipeg), Philip Lee (Fredericton), John Terpstra (Hamilton
Children’s Literature – Text: Maureen Hull (Pictou Island, N.S.), Richard Scarsbrook (Toronto), Darcy Tamayose (Lethbridge, Alta.)
Children’s Literature – Illustration: Murray Kimber (Nelson, B.C.), Susan Tooke (Halifax), Ange Zhang (Toronto)
Translation – French to English: Jo-Anne Elder (Fredericton),
Hugh Hazelton (Montreal), Maureen Ranson (Calgary)

French-language committees

Fiction: Salah Benlabed (Montreal), Nadine Bismuth (Montreal),
Alain Bernard Marchand (Ottawa)
Poetry: André Brochu (Montreal), Nadine Ltaif (Montreal),
Alain Raimbault (Longueuil)
Drama: Sounia Balha (Montreal), Marc Prescott (Winnipeg),
Pierre-Michel Tremblay (Montreal)
Non-fiction: Joël Des Rosiers (Charlemagne, Que.), Daniel Jacques (Québec), Claudine Potvin (Vernon, B.C.)
Children’s Literature – Text: Bertrand Laverdure (St-Liguori, Que.), Diane Carmel Léger (Moncton), Hada López (Québec)
Children’s Literature – Illustration: Naomi Mitcham (Whitehorse), Janice Nadeau (Montreal), Pierre Pratt (Lisbon, Portugal)
Translation – English to French: Laurent Chabin (Montreal),
Patricia Godbout (Sherbrooke), Louise Ladouceur (Edmonton)

(Of course, Patrick deWitt would be from Portland...if any of you have read my essay "Six Pixels of Separation," you might understand to what I refer...)

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