Samuel Archibald's Arvida among books longlisted for Giller Prize

Samuel Archibald's short story collection Arvida was a huge hit in French. Now the English version, translated by Donald Winkler, has cracked this year's Giller longlist.

Book published by Windsor,Ont.-based Biblioasis already a huge best-seller in French

Samuel Archibald's Arvida has been longlisted for the Giller Prize. (Twitter)

Samuel Archibald celebrated the release of the English translation of his novel, Arvida, Monday night at the Atwater Library in Montreal.

The book of short stories is already a bestseller in French, with more than 25,000 copies in the hands of francophone readers. 

When it first came out in 2011, Montreal's La Presse newspaper described Arvida as a collection of tall tales, myths, and spooky campfire stories — and "one of the best surprises of the new literary season." 

Samuel Archibald, author of Arvida, with his English translator Donald Winkler. (Jeanette Kelly/CBC)
Now, it's on the Giller longlist in a translation by Montreal's Donald Winkler, one of three books published by the small press, Biblioasis.  

As a French-Canadian writer, Archibald said he didn't pay attention to the Giller announcement. 

"I just basically went to walk the dog five minutes and when I got back there were 50 new notifications on Facebook so I knew something was afoot," he said.

The stories are based on tales Archibald heard growing up in Arvida in Quebec's Saguenay region, a "backwoods" according to the writer.

Built in 1927 in just 135 days, Arvida is named after the owner of Alcoa, Arthur Vining Davis.

The model town was built for the employees of what was the largest smelter in North America at the time.

Arvida is published by Biblioasis, a literary press based in Windsor, Ontario.
Archibald says his stories fill in the gaps for a town with no history.

"Growing up in such a place that is so remote that it's on the edge or outside history, you never have any history except for the stories you told each other," he said.

He points out that in French there's only one word for history and stories: l'histoire et les histoires. 

Arvida is one of three books published by Biblioasis, a literary press based in Windsor, Ont., to make the Giller longlist.

The two others are Martin John by Anakana Schofield and Confidence by Russell Smith. 

We will know Oct. 5 if Arvida makes it to the Giller shortlist. The $100,000 prize will be awarded on Nov. 10 in Toronto. 

About the Author

Jeanette Kelly

Jeanette Kelly works as the arts reporter at CBC Montreal. She's also the host of Cinq à Six, Quebec's Saturday afternoon culture show on CBC Radio One.

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