AND THE GILLER GOES TO . . .
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.