Madeleine Thien takes home the $100,000 lit­er­ary prize, cap­ping a re­mark­able year for the Mon­treal nov­el­ist,


What love she’s seen this lit­er­aryprized sea­son both here at home and abroad: Lauded au­thor Madeleine Thien won the $100,000 Sco­tia­bank Giller Prize Mon­day night.

With her hands shak­ing and tears in her eyes, the Van­cou­ver-born, Mon­treal-based writer came up on stage to ac­cept the award for her novel Do Not Say We Have Noth­ing.

“She wanted me to be free in this world . . . to love and be loved,” Thien said in a trib­ute to her mother, who died in 2002.

But there’s a quiet strength be­hind her words, which re­flects the book.

Do Not Say We Have Noth­ing is set in China be­fore, dur­ing and af­ter the 1989 Tianan­men Square protests.

The heart of the story in­volves three Chi­nese mu­si­cians who are study­ing western clas­si­cal mu­sic at the Shang­hai Con­ser­va­tory of Mu­sic in the1960s, and ex­plores the revo­lu­tion that oc­curred un­der Mao Ze­dong and the many po­lit­i­cal cam­paigns that pulled apart peo­ple’s lives.

In her pre­sen­ta­tion of Thien’s novel dur­ing Mon­day’s tele­vised gala, award-win­ning com­poser and record­ing artist Tanya Ta­gaq said: “Do Not Say We Have Noth­ing . . . en­chants the ju­rors with its de­tailed, lay­ered, com­plex drama of clas­si­cal mu­si­cians and their loved ones try­ing to sur­vive two mon­strous in­sults to their hu­man­ity.”

The top-sell­ing novel re­cently won a $25,000 Gover­nor Gen­eral’s Lit­er­ary Award and was a fi­nal­ist for the Man Booker Prize.

At a re­cep­tion at the Ritz-Carl­ton Ho­tel held be­fore the CBC-tele­vised Giller gala, Thien beat out ti­tles from Mon­treal’s Mona Awad and Cather­ine Ler­oux, Lon­don, Ont.-based au­thor Emma Donoghue, Toronto-based Zoe Whit­tall and Hamilton’s Gary Bar­win.

The six ti­tles were cho­sen from 161 books sub­mit­ted by 69 pub­lisher im­prints by this year’s jury, which in­cluded Cana­dian writ­ers Lawrence Hill, Jeet Heer and Kath­leen Win­ter, along with Bri­tish au­thor Sa­man­tha Har­vey and Scot­tish writer Alan Warner.

Her ed­i­tor, Lynn Henry, said of Thien, “she’s in­ter­ested in how do we live a good life, what does it mean to be a cre­ative per­son. She has a unique per­spec­tive.”

The prize’s founder, Toronto busi­ness­man Jack Rabi­novitch, named it in hon­our of his late wife, lit­er­ary jour­nal­ist Doris Giller.

Madeleine Thien won the Giller Prize and the GG lit­er­ary award for Do Not Say We Have Noth­ing.

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