Entertainment

Giller 2019: Bezmozgis, Ohlin, Crummey to vie for $100K fiction prize

Canadian writers David Bezmozgis, Alix Ohlin and Michael Crummey are in the running for the 2019 Scotiabank Giller Prize, Canada’s richest literary award for fiction.

Past winners Margaret Atwood, André Alexis not among list of finalists

Canadian writers David Bezmozgis (clockwise from top left), Megan Gail Coles, Ian Williams, Steven Price, Alix Ohlin and Michael Crummey are in the running for the 2019 Scotiabank Giller Prize, Canada’s richest literary award for fiction. (Scotiabank Giller Prize)

Canadian writers David Bezmozgis, Alix Ohlin and Michael Crummey are in the running for the 2019 Scotiabank Giller Prize, Canada's richest literary award for fiction.

Organizers announced this year's contenders late Monday morning in Toronto.

The annual prize celebrates the best Canadian novel or short story collection of the past year published in English, with the recipient receiving $100,000 (each remaining finalist receives $10,000).

This year, four past Giller contenders will face off against two debut novelists.

The shortlisted authors are:

  • Toronto writer David Bezmozgis for his short story collection Immigrant City.
  • Megan Gail Coles of St. John's for her debut novel Small Game Hunting at the Local Coward Gun Club.
  • St. John's writer Michael Crummey for his novel The Innocents.
  • Montrealer Alix Ohlin, currently based in Vancouver, for her novel Dual Citizens.
  • Victoria writer Steven Price for his novel Lampedusa.
  • Toronto-raised, Vancouver-based poet Ian Williams for Reproduction, his debut novel.

The finalists were whittled down from a long list that included past Giller winners André Alexis (nominated for Days by Moonlight) and Margaret Atwood (nominated for The Testaments). Alexis won in 2015 for Fifteen Dogs, while Atwood took the Giller for Alias Grace in in 1996.

'No slight to any author' not shortlisted, say jurors

Much fanfare has surrounded The Testaments, Atwood's anticipated sequel to The Handmaid's Tale, which is a finalist for Britain's Booker Prize.

"After reading 117 books, there's no slight to any author to not make the short list. We all responded favourably to [The Testaments] enough that it was on the long list… In the end, compromise is made out of passion and debate, and I think we're really happy with what we arrived at," playwright and Giller juror Jose Teodoro said immediately after the short list announcement.

"We felt great about all the choices that we made. They were all very strong books. Even the long list was exceptionally strong, so we had to come to some decisions," added literary critic and fellow juror Donna Bailey Nurse.

Rounding out the judging committee this year are writers Randy Boyagoda, Aminatta Forna and Aleksandar Hemon.

Bezmozgis has been a Giller finalist twice before: for 2011's The Free World and 2014's The Betrayers. Crummey and Ohlin are also past contenders, having been shortlisted for 2001's River Thieves and 2012's Inside, respectively. Price previously made the Giller long list for his 2016 novel By Gaslight.

The winner will be announced a gala hosted by singer-songwriter, actor and writer Jann Arden in Toronto on Nov. 18.

The 2019 Giller Prize gala will air on CBC, CBC Radio One and will be livestreamed on CBC Books.

Established in 1994, the Giller Prize was created by businessman Jack Rabinovitch in memory of his wife, literary journalist Doris Giller.

Esi Edugyan, Alice Munro, M.G. Vasanji, Will Ferguson and Madeleine Thien are among the past winners of the Canadian honour.

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