Sean Michaels wins the Scotiabank Giller Prize


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Sean Michaels has won the most lucrative literary prize in Canada - the $100,000 Scotiabank Giller Prize - for his debut novel Us Conductors.

The story is inspired by the life of Lev Sergeyevich Termen, the Russian inventor of the eerily beautiful theremin, taking him from the rambunctious New York clubs of the 1930s to the bleak gulags of the Soviet Union.

A clearly emotional Michaels took to the stage after being revealed as the winner.

"I feel like a whale who has found a whole city in his mouth," he told the audience.

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The Giller jury had praised Michaels' writing, saying "he succeeds at one of the hardest things a writer can do: he makes music seem to sing from the pages of a novel."

The Montreal-based Michaels is also a music critic and blogger, and had said he was drawn to write about the theremin because it's been so misunderstood.


The Scotland-born, Ottawa-raised Michaels receives his Scotiabank Giller Prize trophy. (David Donnelly/CBC)

Over the past two decades, the Scotiabank Giller Prize has become one of the most prestigious literary awards in North America. Prize founder Jack Rabinovitch established the award in 1994 (then worth $25,000 for the winner) in honour of his late wife, literary editor Doris Giller.

Sean Michaels stopped by CBC Radio's Q the next morning to reflect on his win. You can listen to his conversation with Tom Power below:

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Monday's gala was a glitzy affair that saw Murdoch Mysteries star Yannick Bisson, singer-songwriter and Moist frontman David Usher, and award-winning filmmaker Deepa Mehta join TV stars Jessica Paré (Mad Men), Kim Coates (Sons of Anarchy), and activist Naomi Klein as special presenters. Audiences at the event and watching live on CBC-TV and online at CBC Books also watched a performance by 19-year-old Juno-nominated classic pianist Jan Lisiecki.

The other finalists, who each will receive $10,000, were:

You can learn more about the shortlisted books at CBC Books' special Scotiabank Giller Prize page.

Replay all the action tonight in our liveblog.