Canada Council for the Arts

Canada Council for the Arts

November 18, 2008 11:00 ET

Canada Council for the Arts: Winners of 2008 Governor General's Literary Awards Announced

MONTREAL, QUEBEC--(Marketwire - Nov. 18, 2008) - Two four-time winners are among the list of winners of the 2008 Governor General's Literary Awards announced today by the Canada Council for the Arts. The awards are given in the categories of fiction, poetry, drama, non-fiction, children's literature (text and illustration) and translation, in English and in French.

Five of this year's winners are previous recipients and ten are receiving the award for the first time. For Marie-Claire Blais, winner in French-language fiction, it is her fourth award. Stephane Jorisch, nominated in two categories in 2008, has also won his fourth award as the winner in children's literature - illustration. For Nino Ricci, winner of the award in English-language fiction, this is his second award. Other previous winners include: Pierre Ouellet (French-language non-fiction), and Janice Nadeau (children's illustration - French).

"Reading is discovering that our roots encompass the world. It also means stepping outside of ourselves and reaching the Other. Reading allows us to find our truth and share it with all of humanity. We need to live to read and read to live," said Her Excellency the Right Honourable Michaelle Jean, Governor General of Canada.

Her Excellency will present the winners with their awards at Rideau Hall on December 10. This year marks the 72nd presentation of the Governor General's Literary Awards, Canada's oldest and most prestigious awards for English- and French-language Canadian literature.

The Canada Council funds, administers and promotes the awards. The value of each award is $25,000 and each winner will also receive a specially-bound copy of the winning book bound by Montreal bookbinder Lise Dubois. The publisher of each winning book will receive $3,000 to support promotional activities. Non-winning finalists will each receive $1,000 in recognition of their selection as finalists, bringing the total value of the awards to approximately $450,000.

BMO Financial Group has been the sponsor of the GGs since 1988, providing support for the promotion of the winners and finalists.

The names of the winners and titles of their works are listed below, together with jury comments for each work. Biographical information and downloadable images are posted on the Canada Council's website at




Nino Ricci, Toronto, The Origin of Species.

(Doubleday Canada)

Alex Fratarcangeli, a modern Prufrock, must survive in the multiethnic complexity of Montreal in the 1980s. The Origin of Species is written with great humanity, realism and wit. Told in windowpane prose, this story reads as if it has come up through our collective memory. With the shock of recognition, we gain a new understanding of our fragility and our strength.

Marie-Claire Blais, Westmount, Quebec, Naissance de Rebecca a l'ere des tourments.

(Les Editions du Boreal)

The heart of a world in all its maledictions and beauty, the inexhaustible outpouring of life in the darkness of an end that began a long time ago, this breathtaking paroxysm of a novel turns any commonly held vision upside down. Marie-Claire Blais' transcendental prose illuminates the depths of the characters with an extraordinary light of survival.


Jacob Scheier, Toronto, More to Keep Us Warm.

(ECW Press)

More to Keep Us Warm invites the reader into a world of hope, pain, laughter and forgiveness - elements that reconcile the human drama through the power of love and sheer poetic invention. With deep affection for his work, Jacob Scheier manages his debut collection with precision, grace and stunning metaphor.

Michel Pleau, Quebec City, La lenteur du monde.

(Les Editions David)

In La lenteur du monde, Michel Pleau uses simple, moving images that go straight to the heart.

He shapes words like a sculptor carves, with painstaking care, to give us moments of pure beauty and flashes of luminous landscape. He evokes the nostalgia of childhood in language as refreshing and bracing as the wind.


Catherine Banks, Halifax, Bone Cage.

(Playwrights Canada Press)

With her expert command of dramatic metaphor, Catherine Banks shows us the life-blood of rural Canada flowing through the conflicted, bone-caged human heart. What is the cost to the human spirit, she asks, when good people are forced by circumstance to kill the thing they love - in this case, the Canadian wilderness? The playwright finds that which is most noble in unexpected places, the heroic in what appears to be the simplest of lives.

Jennifer Tremblay, Sorel, Quebec, La liste.

(Les Editions de la Bagnole)

Absolutely inspired. The author proposes a simple, syncopated tale of everyday to-do lists in which the essential and the ordinary are inextricably entwined. Jennifer Tremblay achieves the universal with economy and lucidity.


Christie Blatchford, Toronto, Fifteen Days: Stories of Bravery, Friendship, Life and Death from Inside the New Canadian Army.

(Doubleday Canada)

Christie Blatchford's Fifteen Days: Stories of Bravery, Friendship, Life and Death from Inside the New Canadian Army is a dramatic and vivid chronicle that proves reportage and the language of common speech can rise to the challenge of literature. Blatchford's writing allows the soldiers and their families to speak to us in their own voices, without adornment.

Pierre Ouellet, Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu, Quebec, Hors-temps: poetique de la posthistoire.

(VLB editeur)

Pierre Ouellet does an exceptional job of combining the inspiration of poetry with the rigours of philosophy. He positions himself at the dawn of post-history and, through the power of language, reveals a dazzling vision of the future. He blends the political, dreams and intimacy into a critical reflection of immense lucidity.

Children's Literature - Text

John Ibbitson, Washington (D.C.), formerly of Ottawa and Toronto, The Landing.

(Kids Can Press)

A superbly crafted story, The Landing takes us to the Ontario Muskoka region of the 1930s. As an interpretation of a place and time and a young man's coming-of-age, it never falters. It is a novel as timeless as the music and the adolescent imagination that lie at its centre.

Sylvie Desrosiers, Longueuil, Quebec, Les trois lieues.

(Les editions de la courte echelle)

Sylvie Desrosiers has written a profoundly moving story about the difficult relationship between a father and son. The book takes us on an extraordinary adventure in the far North, a place where magic is closely connected to reality. A gentle reflection on courage, forgiveness, life, love and death.

Children's Literature - Illustration

Stephane Jorisch, Montreal, The Owl and the Pussycat, text by Edward Lear.

(Kids Can Press)

Light, poetic, playful, imaginative, bizarre and ingenious illustrations match the text superbly. Stephane Jorisch's art brings new colour and depth to this well-known poem. Sit down in an armchair with this book and let it transport you into its magical world.

Janice Nadeau, Montreal, Ma meilleure amie, text by Gilles Tibo.

(Quebec Amerique)

Janice Nadeau uses a quiet, sober approach to illustrate the delicate subject of death. Her brushstroke evokes ashes and dust, and the restrained use of colour imbues Ma meilleure amie with an emotional charge that goes straight to the heart.


Lazer Lederhendler, Montreal, Nikolski.

(Knopf Canada)

English translation of Nikolski by Nicolas Dickner (Editions Alto)

One senses the affinity between the translator and his writer in this English-language version of Nikolski, a delightfully light-hearted, deeply-rooted story. The wonderful magic in the original is also present in the translation. Lederhendler is clearly a translator with imagination and a terrific sense of language. His work remains wickedly faithful to the original.

Claire Chabalier, Notre-Dame-de-l'Ile-Perrot, Quebec, and Louise Chabalier, Mascouche,

Quebec, Tracey en mille morceaux

(Les editions Les Allusifs)

French translation of The Tracey Fragments by Maureen Medved (House of Anansi Press)

This extraordinary feat of fragmentation, already a tour-de-force in English, ran the risk in translation of appearing juxtaposed, assembled artificially in an attempt to reproduce the original welter of words. But the fluidity is natural, and the tension is constant and palpable. The translation avoids any vulgarity or obscenity - a work utterly lacking in complacency or concession.


The juries

The finalists and winners are chosen by independent juries (seven English and seven French categories) appointed by the Canada Council. The juries, which meet separately, consider all eligible books published between September 1, 2007 and September 30, 2008 for English-language books and between July 1, 2007 and June 30, 2008 for French-language books. This year, a total of 1,469 titles, 906 in the English-language categories and 563 in the French-language categories, were submitted.

English-language juries

Fiction: Shauna Singh Baldwin (Milwaukee, Wisconsin), Greg Hollingshead (Edmonton), Jane Urquhart (Stratford)

Poetry: Di Brandt (Brandon, Man.), Pier Giorgio Di Cicco (Toronto), Connie Fife (Nanaimo, B.C.)

Drama: Margaret Hollingsworth (Toronto), Sunil Kuruvilla (Waterloo), Kent Stetson (Montreal)

Non-fiction: Marian Botsford Fraser (Toronto), Terry Glavin (Victoria), Chantal Hebert (Montreal)

Children's literature - text: Michael Kusugak (Rankin Inlet, NU), Kevin Major (St. John's, N.L.), Teresa Toten (Toronto)

Children's literature - illustration: Victor Bosson (Victoria), Jirina Marton (Colborne, Ont.), Janie Jaehyun Park (Toronto)

Translation: Lorin Card (Kelowna), Susanne de Lotbiniere-Harwood (Verdun, Que.), John Van Burek (Toronto)

French-language juries

Fiction: Lise Bissonnette (Montreal), Ying Chen (Vancouver), Robert Lalonde (Montreal)

Poetry: Franz Benjamin (Montreal), Martine Jacquot (Waterville, N.B.), Pauline Michel (Montreal)

Drama: Michel Marc Bouchard (Montreal), Royds Fuentes-Imbert (Montreal), Genevieve Pineault (Sudbury)

Non-fiction: Herve Fischer (Montreal), Monique LaRue (Montreal), Victor Teboul (Montreal)

Children's literature - text: Ginette Anfousse (Riviere-Rouge, Que.), Edith Bourget (Saint-Jacques, N.B.), Michel Noel (Saint-Damien, Que.)

Children's literature - illustration: Jean-Paul Eid (Montreal), Joanne Ouellet (Lac Beauport, Que.), Christine Sioui (Odanak, Que.)

Translation: Pierre Anctil (Ottawa), Emile Martel (Montreal), Paule Noyart (Bromont, Que.)

Tous les documents du Conseil des Arts du Canada sont disponibles en francais et en anglais.

Contact Information