André Alexis wins Windham-Campbell Prize, one of world's richest literary prizes

André Alexis is one of eight recipients of the Donald Windham-Sandy M. Campbell Literature Prizes, one of the richest literary prizes in the world. The $165,000 US (approx. $215,000 Cdn) prize recognizes an author's complete body of work in four categories: fiction, nonfiction, drama and poetry.

Established in 2013 by Donald Windham to honour his late partner, Sandy M. Campbell, the Windham-Campbell Prizes honour "literary achievement" and are meant to give writers the opportunity to focus on their craft and not worry about their financial situation. English-language writers from around the world are eligible for the prize.

The Windham-Campbell Prizes selection process is unique. Honourees are confidentially nominated by experts selected for their expertise in the respective field. The winners are chosen by anonymous judges. Writers do not learn they were submitted for consideration unless they win.

"André Alexis's work displays a mastery of literature's history and a startling power of invention, balancing intellectual sophistication with a sense of humour, pathos and beauty," the selection committee said on the prize's website.

Alexis was originally wary of the news. When the prize director first contacted him, he was concerned there was a misunderstanding, Alexis revealed in a statement. Once he was assured he was, in fact, a recipient of the prize, he "passed 24 hours of amazement, gratitude, bewilderment and joy."

Alexis is the author of essays, plays, a libretto, short stories and the novels Childhood, Pastoral and Fifteen Dogs. Fifteen Dogs won the Scotiabank Giller Prize and the Rogers Writers' Trust Fiction Prize when it was published in 2015. It is currently a contender for Canada Reads, where it will be defended by Humble The Poet. Canada Reads takes place March 27-30.

Alexis is the third Canadian to win a Windham-Campbell Prize. Playwright Hannah Moscovitch won for drama in 2016 and John Vaillant received the nonfiction prize in 2014.

The other winners this year are Erna Brodber for fiction, Marina Carr and Ike Holter for drama, Carolyn Forché and Ali Cobby Eckermann for poetry, and Maya Jasanoff and Ashleigh Young for nonfiction.