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The first Giller Prize is awarded

The Story

The winner of the first Giller Prize, Canada's new award for English fiction, was revealed today. In this CBC Radio clip, literary giant Mordecai Richler announces that M.G. Vassanji gets the $25,000 prize for his third novel, The Book of Secrets. Vassanji is a former nuclear scientist whose new book ties together the past and present of a community of Indian emigrants living in East Africa. Vassanji talks about the effect the prestigious new prize will have on Canadian writers, on his future and on the memory of journalist Doris Giller. She died of cancer in 1993 at age 62. The prize was created by Giller's husband, businessman Jack Rabinovitch. Giller was famous for her insights on literature as well as the flamboyant figure she cut on the party circuit.

Medium: Radio
Program: Gabereau
Broadcast Date: Nov. 3, 1994
Guest: M.G. Vassanji
Reporter: Michael Crabbe
Duration: 1:48

Did You know?

• Doris Giller was born Jan. 22, 1931. She was raised on St. Lawrence Boulevard, popularly known as "the Main," that bisects what was Montreal's Jewish neighbourhood. She trained as a secretary but her passion for books led to writing and editing positions with the Montreal Star and the Gazette. She followed husband Jack Rabinovitch to Toronto where she became assistant books editor at the Toronto Star. Giller remained there until shortly before her 1993 death.

• M.G. Vassanji was born in Nairobi, Kenya in 1950 and raised in Tanzania. He was part of a community of Indian emigrants. At age 19, Vassanji went to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology to study nuclear physics. He later went to Ontario to work at a power plant in Chalk River and, in 1980, moved to Toronto. His novels include The Gunny Sack, Amriika and The In-Between World of Vikram Lall.

• Both novels and collections of short stories are eligible for the Giller Prize. Past winners include: Margaret Atwood for Alias Grace in 1996; Mordecai Richler for Barney's Version in 1997; both David Adams Richards for Mercy Among The Children and Michael Ondaatje for Anil's Ghost in 2000, and Austin Clarke for The Polished Hoe in 2002.

• The $25,000 Giller Prize was eclipsed as Canada's richest award for writing in 2001 by The Griffin Poetry Prize, which annually awards $40,000 each to one Canadian poet and one international poet.

• The award for the Giller Prize was boosted to $50,000 in 2005 when a new sponsor signed on. As of 2013, the prize winner takes home $50,000 and each of the four authors remaining on the shortlist receive $5,000.


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