ScotiaBank Gillers

M.G. Vassanji 1994

The honour of winning the first ever Giller Prize went to Kenyan-born M.G. Vassanji, who was in his mid-40s at the time. His novel The Book of Secrets, about a community of Indian emigrants living in East Africa, earned him the cash award of $25,000, the largest for literature in Canada. The inaugural jury featured a cast of literary and intellectual heavyweights: Alice Munro, Mordecai Richler and David Staines.

After receiving the award, Vassanji thanked prize founder Jack Rabinovitch for honouring Canadian art.

"What [the award] does is tell us that fiction, or the art of creating representations of ourselves in Canada, is so important."

In the vintage video clip below, you can watch Vassanji receive the inaugural Giller Prize!

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The 1994 shortlist

M.G. Vassanji - The Book of Secrets
Bonnie Burnard - Casino and Other Stories
Eliza Clark - What You Need
Shyam Selvadurai - Funny Boy
Steve Weiner - The Museum of Love

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