News Americas, TORONTO, CANADA, WEDS. Nov. 20, 2019: A Caribbean-born immigrant and first-time novelist is the 2019 winner of Canada’s top literary honor, the Scotiabank Giller Prize.
Trinidad national Ian Williams took home the top honor for his first novel ‘Reproduction,’ published by Random House Canada. The win also earned him $100,000, courtesy of Scotiabank.
The novel tells the story of a sober-minded teenager from a small island nation and the listless heir to a German family fortune meet in the hospital room where their mothers lay dying.
From there, Williams unspools a narrative so entangled it strains against novelistic convention.
Of the winning book, the jury wrote: “Ian Williams’ ‘Reproduction’ is many things at once. It’s an engrossing story of disparate people brought together and also a masterful unfolding of unexpected connections and collisions between and across lives otherwise separated by race, class, gender and geography.
“It’s a pointed and often playful plotting out of individual and shared stories in the close spaces of hospital rooms, garages, mansions and apartments, and a symphonic performance of resonant and dissonant voices, those of persons wanting to impress, persuade, deny, or beguile others, and always trying again.”
“You have no idea how special this is for me,” Williams said as he accepted the prize, telling the story of how the very first book he bought with his own money was one by Margaret Atwood, who was in the audience.
Williams and his family, emigrated from Trinidad to Canada in the late 1980s and once said that “from a young age I knew the most important things to me were people and communication.” He said in 2013 he sought “a career that could combine those two things.”
Williams is the author of ‘Personals,’ shortlisted for the Griffin Poetry Prize and the Robert Kroetsch Poetry Book Award; ‘Not Anyone’s Anything,’ winner of the Danuta Gleed Literary Award for the best first collection of short fiction in Canada; and ‘You Know Who You Are,’ a finalist for the ReLit Prize for poetry.
He was named as one of ten Canadian writers to watch by CBC. Williams completed his Ph.D. in English at the University of Toronto and is currently an assistant professor of poetry in the Creative Writing program at the University of British Columbia. He was the 2014-2015 Canadian Writer-in-Residence for the University of Calgary’s Distinguished Writers Programme.
Williams has held fellowships or residencies from the Banff Center, Vermont Studio Center, Cave Canem, Kimmel Harding Nelson Center for the Arts, and Palazzo Rinaldi in Italy. He was also a scholar at the National Humanities Center Summer Institute for Literary Study and was a judge for the 2018 Griffin prize. His writing has appeared in several North American journals and anthologies.
The Giller Prize, founded by Jack Rabinovitch in 1994, highlights the very best in Canadian fiction year after year. In 2005, the prize teamed up with Scotiabank who increased the winnings four-fold. The Scotiabank Giller Prize now awards $100,000 annually to the author of the best Canadian novel or short story collection published in English, and $10,000 to each of the finalists. The award is named in honour of the late literary journalist Doris Giller by her husband Toronto businessman Jack Rabinovitch, who passed away in August 2017.