Battle of the books: the 2011 Giller Prize shortlist revealed

Battle of the books: the 2011 Giller Prize shortlist revealed

The Giller Prize announced its short list earlier today, featuring six books by Canadian authors nominated for the $50,000 prize. The Giller began in 1994 and celebrates the best Canadian novel or short story collection published in English across the country. The selection jury is comprised of Howard Norman, an award-winning novelist and recipient of the John Simon Guggenheim Fellowship, Annabel Lyon, also an award-winning novelist and the author of The Golden Mean and All-Season Edie, and Andrew O’Hagan, Scottish-born author and winner of the Los Angeles Times prize for fiction in 2008. The jury was tasked with reading 143 novels before selecting the six books on the short list, and this year’s list includes novels by Michael Ondaatje as well as new writers Esi Edugyan and Patrick DeWitt. Check out the full list, after the jump.

The Free World by David Bezmozgis

Bezmosgis was named in the New Yorker’s 2010 “top 20 fiction writers under the age of 40” list, a remarkable feat considering The Free World is his first novel. But Bezmosgis is no stranger to the publishing world: his work has appeared in Harper’s, The Walrus, the New Yorker and Best American Short Stories, 2005. Bezmozgis’ family immigrated to Toronto from Latvia in 1980, and in The Free World he writes what he knows, since the novel follows a Soviet-Jewish family of refugees stranded in Rome. The jury describes The Free World as “a very modern, very hip, intellectually intimate, electrically comic novel, all the while a passionate retelling of the most ancient sort of immigrant story, full of vicissitudes, nerve-wracking doubt and unforeseen joys.”

The Antagonist by Lynn Coady

Weekly advice columnist for the Globe and Mail and award-winning author, editor and journalist Lynn Coady brings to life the story of a hockey enforcer in The Antagonist. Coady’s protagonist, Rank, becomes an unwitting antagonist, with violence becoming an overarching theme of his life. After discovering a novel that harshly depicts his life, Rank writes a series of emails correcting the wrongful indictments, forming an autobiographical meta-narrative. The Giller jury calls it “one of the most eccentric and memorable autobiographies you’re likely to read,” describing the novel as a story of “betrayal up close and personal.”

The Sisters Brothers by Patrick deWitt

Newcomer deWitt’s The Sisters Brothers has been receiving lots of buzz recently, and we think it’s well-deserved: deWitt’s take on the western novel is a fresh one. “I wanted to subvert the character of the western hero, underwritten in westerns,” deWitt told the Globe and Mail in May. The novel follows Eli and Charlie Sisters, two cowboys who also happen to be killers for hire. That sounds like the making of a movie to us, so it comes as no surprise that John C. Reilly’s production company has already optioned the book.

Half Blood Blues by Esi Edugyan

Half Blood Blues is the second novel for Esi Edugyan—her first, The Second Life of Samuel Tyne, was published to critical acclaim—and portrays the trials of an interracial jazz band whose lead musician, a German of African descent, is arrested by the Nazis.

Better Living Through Plastic Explosives by Zsuzsi Gartner

Vancouver-based Zsuzsi Gartner won the 2007 National Magazine Award for fiction and is an award-winning journalist. Her Giller-nominated book Better Living Through Plastic Explosives is a collective of short stories that present humorous and disturbing portrayals of Vancouver. The jury describes Gartner as “one of the supreme noticers in contemporary fiction, and with this book she has produced a rare work of wisdom and laughter.”

The Cat’s Table by Michael Ondaatje

There’s no arguing Ondaatje is the most recognizable of the six authors shortlisted for the Giller—he has won the Man Booker Prize for The English Patient and the Giller Prize for Anil’s Ghost. Ondaatje’s Giller-nom The Cat’s Table takes place on a ship as it makes its way to England and features Michael, an 11-year-old, whose irreverence and wit characterize the novel. As the jury writes, this novel is “rich in images, precise in language and wise about the way people can be haunted by their own experiences.” Ondaatje at his best.

Giller Prize short list includes deWitt, Edugyan [CBC News]