Winners of the 2007 Governor General's Literary Awards
Michael Ondaatje - Divisadero
(McClelland & Stewart; distributed by Random House of Canada)
Michael Ondaatje has produced a stream of poetry, theatre and fiction that has been widely acclaimed. This is Ondaatje’s fifth Governor General’s Literary Award, tying him for the most awards with Hugh MacLennan. Previously, he has won twice in the poetry category (The Collected Works of Billy the Kid, 1970, and There’s a Trick with a Knife I’m Learning to Do, 1979) and twice in fiction (The English Patient, 1992, and Anil’s Ghost, 2000). The English Patient won the 1992 Booker Prize and became an Oscar-winning film. Ondaatje, who teaches at Glendon College, York University, lives in Toronto.
Lyricism and whimsy are necessary ingredients of brilliant narrative language, and Michael Ondaatje achieves this magnificently in Divisadero. He establishes, in excellent measure, his mastery of poetic seduction, while mindful to include tenderness, compassion and grace. Grace, after all, is the ultimate gift which Ondaatje offers us in Divisadero.
Don Domanski - All Our Wonder Unavenged
(Brick Books; distributed by LitDistCo) (ISBN 978-1-894078-58-6)
Don Domanski was born and raised on Cape Breton Island and now lives in Halifax, Nova Scotia. He has published eight books of poetry. Two of his books (Wolf Ladder, 1991, and Stations of the Left Hand, 1995) were previously shortlisted for the Governor General’s Award for Poetry. In 1999 he won the CBC Literary Award for Poetry. Published and reviewed internationally, Domanski’s work has been translated into Czech, Portuguese and Spanish.
Stunningly beautiful and delicate, All Our Wonder Unavenged is a deeply moving vision about the intricacies of the everyday world. A spiritual and metaphysical triumph.
Colleen Murphy -The December Man (L’homme de décembre)
(Playwrights Canada Press; distributed by publisher) (ISBN 978-0-88754-595-5)
Colleen Murphy was born in Rouyn-Noranda, Quebec and grew up in a small town north of Lake Superior. She studied acting at Ryerson University and at the Strasberg Institute in New York. Her radio dramas Fire Engine Red and Pumpkin Eaters, won third and second prizes, respectively, in the 1985 and 1990 CBC Literary Competitions. Beating Heart Cadaver was nominated for a GG in drama in 1999. Murphy is also a filmmaker; her film Shoemaker (1995) won several prizes, including three Genies. The December Man won the 2006 Enbridge playRites Award. Colleen Murphy lives in Toronto
The December Man (L’homme de décembre) is a tragedy in which the humanity of the characters gives the play a surprising buoyancy. Heartbreaking yet never sentimental, spare yet complex, with a flawless structure, this is a brave and important play.
Karolyn Smardz Frost - I’ve Got a Home in Glory Land: A Lost Tale of the Underground Railroad
(Thomas Allen Publishers; distributed by Thomas Allen & Sons) (ISBN 978-0-88762-250-2)
Karolyn Smardz Frost is a Toronto-born archaeologist and historian whose 1985 excavation of the Thornton and Lucie Blackburn site made history. I've Got a Home in Glory Land is the fruit of more than 20 years of historical detective work into the fugitive slave couple’s dramatic escape to Canada via the Underground Railroad. Smardz Frost, divides her time between her Collingwood, Ontario, home and an oceanfront cottage on Nova Scotia’s South Shore.
I’ve Got a Home in Glory Land is a triumphant blend of archaeological and historical research with literary story-telling. Karolyn Smardz Frost uses the flight of Thornton and Lucie Blackburn from slavery in Kentucky to freedom in Toronto to bring the Underground Railroad and its passengers to life in remarkably rich detail. Moving and informative in the best sense, the book will become an instant classic
Children's literature (text)
Iain Lawrence - Gemini Summer
(Delacorte Press, an imprint of Random House Children’s Books, a division of Random House; distributed by Random House of Canada) (ISBN 978-0-385-73089-1 (trade) / 978-0-385-90111-6 (glb))
Iain Lawrence was born in Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario, and grew up in Toronto, Calgary and on the West Coast. He studied journalism in Vancouver and worked for 10 years at the Prince Rupert Daily News in northern B.C., eventually becoming editor. He has worked at many odd jobs, including fish farm worker and travel writer. Lawrence is the author of many acclaimed novels, including Ghost Boy, Lord of the Nutcracker Men, and the High Seas Trilogy of The Wreckers, The Smugglers, and The Buccaneers. He makes his home on Gabriola Island, B.C.
Just as the first appearance of a stray dog ignites “a little spark of happiness” in nine-year-old Danny River, Gemini Summer kindles subtle yet powerful emotions that linger well after one has turned the final page. Lawrence’s story is brilliantly imagined, his prose clear and poetic, his characters irresistible.
Children's literature (illustration)
Duncan Weller - The Boy from the Sun
(Simply Read Books; distributed by Publishers Group Canada / Raincoast Business Services)
Born in Montreal, Duncan Weller moved to Thunder Bay when he was 5 years old and spent the next 18 years of his life there. He studied fine arts at Lakehead University. Weller moved to British Columbia in 1990; he also spent some time in Toronto and Montreal working at various odd jobs. He is currently back in Thunder Bay working on an honour’s degree in English. His two other published books are Space Snake and Night Wall; Weller is collaborating with younger brother Eric, a local film producer, on a high-definition video version of the latter book. Weller also paints, and writes poetry and short stories.
Duncan Weller’s The Boy from the Sun, with its striking mix of techniques, lures the unsuspecting reader away from a dark, gloomy and featureless industrial-urban milieu into a brilliantly coloured alternative world of light, colour and hope, which, in a twist in a pictorial narration, turns out to be the real world they were living in all along. This charming, fresh and joyful book perfectly melds story and image, to both deliver its message and form a thoroughly satisfying whole.)
Nigel Spencer - Augustino and the Choir of Destruction
(House of Anansi Press; distributed by HarperCollins Canada) (ISBN 978-0-88784-752-3)
English translation of Augustino et le choeur de la destruction by Marie-Claire Blais (Les Éditions du Boréal)
Nigel Spencer has been a translator, teacher, poet, theatre publicist, festival and conference organizer, researcher, editor, writer, director and actor. He has translated several books by
Marie-Claire Blais, including Wintersleep and Thunder and Light, for which he received a GG in 2002. He is a co-founder of the literary magazine MATRIX and of Toronto’s Summer Centre Theatre. He has published numerous articles and translations on politics, literature and drama. Nigel Spencer lives in Montreal.
Nigel Spencer has performed a tour de force in Augustino and the Choir of Destruction, his translation of the third volume in Marie-Claire Blais’ trilogy. The poignant and intricate stories of the novel’s astonishing constellation of characters are sensitively conveyed through his moving and innovative use of language. Spencer has risen to the extraordinary challenge of rendering Blais’ uninterrupted stream of hallucinatory prose into an accomplished and lyrical translation.
Biographical notes and jury comments on French-language winners
Larger images for French-language authors and book covers
Sylvain Trudel -La mer de la Tranquillité
(Les éditions Les Allusifs; distributed by Gallimard/Socadis) (ISBN 978-2-9228-6846-3)
Sylvain Trudel has devoted himself to writing full time since 1985. His first novel, Le souffle de l'harmattan, won the Molson Prize from the Académie des lettres du Québec (1987) and the Canada-Switzerland Prize (1988). His short-story collection Les prophètes garnered the Prix Edgar-Lespérance (1994). He has since written several books for young people and won the Village du livre prize from the Fondation Espace-Enfants (Le grenier de Monsieur Basile, Switzerland, 1998) and the Saint-Exupéry Prize, francophone category, for his body of work (France, 1998). He has twice before been shortlisted for the Governor General’s Award (1986 and 1994). He lives in Quebec City.
This collection burns with the brilliant flame of Trudel’s language as he conjures terrible, unforgettable worlds. To read him is an unforgettable journey from which we cannot emerge unscathed.
Serge Patrice Thibodeau - Seul on est
(Les Éditions Perce-Neige; distributed by Prologue) (ISBN 978-2-922992-33-5)
Serge Patrice Thibodeau wins his second Governor General’s Award with Seul on est (Le Quatuor de l'errance et La Traversée du désert, 1996). A poet and essayist who has been translated into many languages, he has also won many prizes, including, most recently, the Prix Edgar-Lespérance (L'Appel des mots. Lecture de Saint-Denys-Garneau, 1994), the Grand Prix at the Festival international de la Poésie de Trois-Rivières (Le Quatuor de l'errance et Nous, l'étranger, 1996), the Prix Éloizes (Le roseau, 2001; Que repose ! 2005), and the Prix Antonine-Maillet (Que repose ! 2005). This resident of Moncton has also collaborated on musical projects and worked in film. He became the literary director of Éditions Perce-Neige in 2005.
This is a long poem on the solitary being, imagined, then written like a motif that has been worked in myriad ways in a polished style. The poet’s mastery of language is apparent, with a conciseness that never gives in to the temptation of facileness. Serge Patrice Thibodeau avoids all the potential traps of self-imposed constraints. The verses give and take meaning in a rhythm and voice that are sustained from the start
Daniel Danis - Le chant du Dire-Dire
(Leméac Éditeur; distributed by Prologue) (ISBN 978-2-7609-0402-6)
Daniel Danis takes his third GG (Celle-là, 1993 and Le langue-à-langue des chiens de roche, 2002) with Le chant du Dire-Dire (Prix du syndicat professionnel de la critique dramatique et musicale, 1999). His plays have been performed all over the world and garnered dozens of awards. Cendres de cailloux and Celle-là were followed by Les ponts de pierres et la peau d'image (Prix de théâtre Meilleure découverte: Belgium, 2006), and e, un roman-dit (Grand Prix de Littérature dramatique pour une œuvre francophone: France, 2006). He was made a Chevalier des Arts et des Lettres de la République Française in 2000. He lives in the Saguenay region of Quebec.
Revealing the language of a great contemporary poet, this fable by Daniel Danis is terrifying and magnificent, violent and sensual, with an orality that is deviant even as it connects with the great mythological tales.
Annette Hayward - La querelle du régionalisme au Québec (1904-1931) : Vers l’autonomisation de la littérature québécoise
(Éditions du Nordir; distributed by Prologue) (ISBN 978-2-89531-049-5)
Annette Hayward teaches in the French Studies department at Queen’s University, focusing on Quebec and French-Canadian literature, in particular the institution of literature and writing by women. She is currently doing research on the Anglo-Canadian critical reception of Quebec literature. La querelle du régionalisme au Québec was her doctoral thesis (1980). Considered a pioneering work, based on exhaustive research that still stands as a benchmark of reference, it is now accessible to a wider reading public. Its publication earned it the Prix Gabrielle-Roy (2005) as well as her first Governor General’s Award. Hayward was born in Newfoundland and lived in Quebec prior to moving to Kingston.
Annette Hayward sheds a decisive light on the quarrel that opposed regionalist writers and the so-called ‘exotic’ poets in the first decades of the twentieth century. The result is a resounding success, and a model of literary historiography. With a sober and elegant style, the author combines fine analysis, methodological rigour and a conscientious treatment of documentary sources.
Children’s Literature – Text
François Barcelo - La fatigante et le fainéant
(Soulières éditeur; distributed by Diffusion du livre Mirabel) (ISBN 978-2-89607-043-5)
François Barcelo made his first trip around the world in 1990. Since his retirement, he divides his time between writing and travelling. He earned a degree in French literature before becoming a teacher, then an ad writer. He has made his mark in the literary world with a second prize in the CBC Literary Competition, short-story category (Le héros de Bougainville, 1991); as a GG finalist (1997); as winner of the Grand Prix littéraire de la Montérégie for his body of work (1999); with a jury prize in the latter competition (2003); and the TD Canadian Children’s Literature Award (Le nul et la chipie, 2005). Barcelo lives in Montreal.
The work by François Barcelo is disarming in its simplicity, even as it tackles the complex theme of intergenerational relationships. He takes a fresh new look at a subject that is as old and profoundly human as humanity itself. The voices of the two sensitive characters ring true and the story is well developed. The delightful language is imbued with a tenderness that will leave no reader untouched.
Children’s Literature – Illustration
Geneviève Côté - La petite rapporteuse de mots (text by Danielle Simard)
(Les éditions Les 400 coups; distributed by Diffusion Dimedia) (ISBN 978-2-89540-148-3)
Geneviève Côté has a diploma in graphic design and is active with the Association des illustratrices et illustrateurs du Québec. She has illustrated many books for children, novels and albums, as well as numerous well-known North American magazines. Her work has been included in exhibitions and won prizes and distinctions in Canada and the United States: GG finalist (2000 and 2003), Studio Magazine Awards (Gold, 1993; Silver, 1996), Grand prix du magazine québécois (1994), Society of Publication Design (1998), Grand Prix d’Illustration Jeunesse GL&V (2000), Silver Medal, Society of Illustrators (2001), and Prix Elizabeth Mrazik-Cleaver (2006), among others. She lives in Montréal.
We are dazzled by the refinement and intelligence of the illustrations by Geneviève Côté, and by the simple and effective layout. The use of space and the addition of white reinforces the emotion. The technique of successive, reworked photocopies creates a muted, blurry effect that poignantly translates the fading and gradual loss of memory.
Lori Saint-Martin and Paul Gagné - Dernières notes
(Les éditions Les Allusifs; distributed by Gallimard/Socadis) (ISBN 978-2-9228-68-43-2)
French translation of Last Notes and Other Stories by Tamas Dobozy (Phyllis Bruce Book, HarperCollins Publishers)
Essayist, short story writer and critic Lori Saint-Martin teaches in the literary studies department at UQAM. Paul Gagné holds a Master’s in French literature and devotes himself to literary translation. Together, they have translated more than 30 literary works to critical acclaim, including La perte et le tracas by Alistair MacLeod. They have been honoured with awards including the John Glassco Translation Prize (Ana historique by Daphne Marlatt, 1993), the Quebec Writers Federation Award (Un baume pour le cœur, 2004; La clameur des ténèbres, 2006, by Neil Bissoondath), and the Governor General’s Award (Un parfum de cèdre by Ann-Marie MacDonald, 2000). They have been shortlisted for the GGs on several occasions.
Translators Lori Saint-Martin and Paul Gagné have successfully transposed the diversity of narrative registers (journalistic, introspection, recollection) and of styles, going from the ironic all the way to the grotesque. They have thus recreated the distancing effect of exile, where the bizarre and the familiar are inseparable.