The Canada Council for the Arts announced the 14 winners of the 2013 Governor General's Literary Awards today (November 13), including Sandra Djwa of West Vancouver for Journey with No Maps: A Life of P.K. Page (McGill-Queen’s University Press).
Djwa is renowned for her writing on iconic Canadian authors, such as Margaret Atwood, Leonard Cohen, Al Purdy and E.J. Pratt. Her biography on the of artist and writer P.K. Page wins Djwa her first GG Award as well as a spot on the Charles Taylor Prize shortlist for non-fiction.
Each winner receives a $25,000 prize, the publisher of each winning book receives $3000 to support promotional activities, and non-winning finalists receive $1000 in recognition of their selection as finalists.
The Council funds and administers the GGs, the most significant literary award program in Canada, providing close to $450,000 in prize money. They are awarded in English and French in seven categories: fiction, poetry, drama, non-fiction, children’s literature (text and illustration) and translation.
His Excellency the Right Honourable David Johnston, Governor General of Canada, will present the 2013 GG Literary Awards on Thursday, November 28 at 6 pm at Rideau Hall, in Ottawa.
Eleanor Catton (Auckland, New Zealand), The Luminaries (McClelland & Stewart)
The Luminaries by Eleanor Catton is an entire narrative universe with its own mysterious cosmology. This exhilarating feat of literary design dazzles with masterful storytelling. Each character is a planet – complex and brilliantly revealed. Precise sensual prose illuminates greed, fear, jealousy, longing – all that it means to be human.
Stéphanie Pelletier (Métis-sur-Mer, Que.), Quand les guêpes se taisent (Leméac Éditeur)
The short story collection Quand les guêpes se taisent by Stéphanie Pelletier proposes a sensitive and intimate vision of the world based on everyday occurrences. Thanks to a masterful use of language, stories that we care about and fundamental subjects – love and heartbreak, life and death – this work is universal, and sometimes even sublime.
Katherena Vermette, (Winnipeg), North End Love Songs (The Muses’ Company)
In spare, minimalist language, North End Love Songs attends to the demands of Indigenous and European poetics, braiding an elegant journey that takes us from Winnipeg’s North End out into the world. We enter the undocumented lives of its citizens and celebrate them through Katherena Vermette’s beautiful poems.
René Lapierre (Saint-Antoine-sur-Richelieu, Que.), Pour les désespérés seulement (Éditions Les Herbes rouges)
Pour les désespérés seulement by René Lapierre is a book for those who do not turn a blind eye to the often desperate state of our world. A collection that brings us back to what really is and that evokes, in counterpoint, nature and botany, giving us a glimpse of ‘the infinitesimal joy that watches over us.’
Nicolas Billon (Toronto), Fault Lines: Greenland - Iceland - Faroe Islands (Coach House Books)
Nicolas Billon’s Fault Lines takes a unique and dramatic look at climate change. Greenland, Iceland and the Faroe Islands inspire the playwright’s provocative, theatrical triptych. Urbane and sophisticated strategies of monologue are honed to a laser probe into the interiors of contemporary consciousness.
Fanny Britt (Montreal), Bienveillance (Leméac Éditeur)
Bienveillance is a mature and polished work, and in it we sense the love that Fanny Britt feels for her characters. In few words and with a lovely mastery of dramatic writing, the author gives us a devastating tragedy that reveals itself little by little, allowing us to perceive the enormity of small disasters. This play is funny, disturbing, and rings absolutely true.
Sandra Djwa (Vancouver), Journey with No Maps: A Life of P.K. Page (McGill-Queen’s University Press)
Journey with No Maps: A Life of P.K. Page by Sandra Djwa is a compelling portrait of a complex woman who pushed boundaries in both her art and her life. An insightful discussion of the power of her poetry, the book also illuminates Canada’s literary history in its formative years.
Yvon Rivard (Montreal), Aimer, enseigner (Les Éditions du Boréal)
What can literature tell us about teaching and its unavoidable dimension of the erotic? This is the thorny and audacious question tackled by Yvon Rivard. In luminous prose, the complex discussion in Aimer, enseigner underscores the importance, for teachers, of disappearing into the very light that they conjure.
Children’s Literature — Text
Teresa Toten (Toronto), The Unlikely Hero of Room 13B (Doubleday Canada)
The Unlikely Hero of Room 13B by Teresa Toten is a transformative, high-energy novel that vibrates with the creativity of both the writer and main character. Adam struggles with OCD (obsessive‑compulsive disorder) and a troubled family life. His group therapy becomes an unlikely source of love and friendship. A powerful story with brilliant language and unexpected moments of humour.
Geneviève Mativat (Laval), À l’ombre de la grande maison (Éditions Pierre Tisseyre)
With À l’ombre de la grande maison, Geneviève Mativat gives us a novel about slavery, in an America that has yet to wage its true revolution – that of liberty and equality for all. In sober and effective prose, the author reveals her strong talents as a storyteller.
Children’s Literature — Illustration
Matt James (Toronto), Northwest Passage, text by Stan Rogers (Groundwood Books)
Matt James’s unique illustrations set our imaginations soaring as they steer us through Stan Rogers’ famous ballad, Northwest Passage. The ink and acrylic paintings explode with raw effects and vivid colour, sometimes settling to small ice-blue vignettes. Each page is descriptive of the search that obsessed much of the world for hundreds of years.
Isabelle Arsenault (Montreal), Jane, le renard & moi, text by Fanny Britt (Les Éditions de la Pastèque)
With sensitive and subtle images, Isabelle Arsenault succeeds magnificently in depicting the overwhelming universe of a young girl. With admirable restraint, the sober illustrations and quiet colours strike a responsive chord as they broach the sensitive subject of bullying.
Donald Winkler (Montreal), The Major Verbs (Signal Editions)
English translation of Les verbes majeurs by Pierre Nepveu
In The Major Verbs, Donald Winkler has embraced the beauty, deep meaning and spirit of Pierre Nepveu’s elegantly simple poetry. The poems offer a vision of things at work in our lives, like forms of verbs and things we see but fail to see, such as fatigue, stones, death and survival.
Sophie Voillot (Montreal), L’enfant du jeudi (Les Éditions du Boréal)
French translation of Far to Go by Alison Pick
L’enfant du jeudi is a masterful work in every respect. Sophie Voillot has translated this novel about memory with fluidity and transparency. With her subtlety, her command of the language, and her poetic sensibility, she has managed to transpose the feelings of the author and render a historical reality that remains hard to even imagine accessible to francophone readers.
The peer assessment committees
The winners for the Governor General’s Literary Awards are chosen by peer assessment committees (seven English and seven French categories) appointed by the Canada Council. The committees, which meet separately, consider all eligible books published between September 1, 2012 and September 30, 2013 for English-language books and between July 1, 2012 and June 30, 2013 for French-language books. This year, 978 titles in the English-language categories and 624 titles in the French-language categories were submitted.
Fiction: Kyo Maclear (Toronto), Beth Powning (Markhamville, N.B.), Thomas Wharton (Edmonton)
Poetry: Hugh MacDonald (Montague, P.E.I.), Lee Maracle (Toronto), Rachel Zolf (Calgary)
Drama: Marcia Johnson (Toronto), Bryden MacDonald (Antigonish, N.S.), Charles Tidler (Victoria)
Non-fiction: Denise Chong (Ottawa), Madeline Sonik (Victoria), Jack Todd (Greenfield Park, Que.)
Children’s Literature (Text): Deirdre F. Kessler (Charlottetown, P.E.I.), Mahtab Narsimhan (Toronto), Arthur Slade (Saskatoon)
Children’s Literature (Illustration): Kady MacDonald Denton (Peterborough, Ont.), Maritza Miari (Dartmouth, N.S.), Scot Ritchie (Vancouver)
Translation (French to English): Susanne de Lotbinière-Harwood (Montreal), Louise Forsyth (Calgary), Mark Stout (Winnipeg)
Fiction: Daniel Castillo Durante (Ottawa), Christiane Frenette (Lévis, Que.), Hélène Rioux (Montreal)
Poetry: Franz Benjamin (Montreal), Margaret Michèle Cook (Ottawa), Philippe Haeck (Montreal)
Drama: Louise Bombardier (Montreal), Emma Haché (Ste-Marie St-Raphaël, N.B.), Serge Mandeville (Montreal)
Non-fiction: Martin Jalbert (Montréal), Gisèle Kayata Eid (Montréal), Mariel O’Neill-Karch (Toronto)
Children’s Literature (Text): Marie-Célie Agnant (Montreal), Alain Beaulieu (Quebec), Aurélie Resch (Toronto)
Children’s Literature (Illustration): Édith Bourget (Saint-Jacques, N.B.), France Brassard (Cowansville, Que.), Jean-Paul Eid (Montréal)
Translation (English to French): Yolande Amzallag (Montreal), Michel Gaulin (Ottawa), Carole Noël (Quebec)