Annal: 1994 Giller Prize for Fiction

Results of the Giller Prize in the year 1994.

Book:The Book of Secrets

The Book of Secrets: A Novel

M.G. Vassanji

Like the novels of Nadine Gordimer, J.M. Coetzee, and Ben Okri, The Book of Secrets concerns Africa—in this case, the Asian community of East Africa, a rich nexus of English, Arab, Indian, and African cultures.

The novel begins in 1988 when the 1913 diary of Alfred Corbin, a British colonial administrator, is found in an East African shopkeeper’s backroom. The diary—and the secrets it both reveals and conceals—enflames the curiosity of retired schoolteacher Pius Fernandes. Pius’s obsessive pursuit of history leads him on an investigative journey through his own past and a nation’s.

Vasanji brings to vivid life the landscapes, the towns, and the cities of East Africa from the days of the Great War, through independence, all the way to the close of the eighties. Rich in detail and character, pathos and humor, and evocative of time and place, The Book of Secrets juxtaposes different cultures and generations and tells us something fresh about the nature of storytelling.

Book:Casino & Other Stories

Casino & Other Stories

Bonnie Burnard

Casino & Other Stories pulls us beneath the surface of convention into uncharted and often unpredictable emotional territory. In this remarkable new collection of nine stories we see the painful collision of youthful innocence and the bleak wisdom of age; the ironies of love and the complexities of sexuality. Several stories experiment with time and the random intersection of lives, becoming explorations of the pattern and texture of everyday experience. Others capture the bittersweet moments when we see clearly, if only for a brief moment, into our own hearts.

Resonating with the nuances of silence and speech between parent and child, women and men, the stories move easily through a broad emotional and geographical range—from small town childhoods to urban violence, from nostalgia for a simpler past to the tensions of modern life. Burnhard has a gift for recreating the tensions of family life and the frailty of love: marriages dissolve, parents fear for their children, young people face uncertain futures. Writing with deceptive simplicity, she seduces us with the unexpected, unnerve us with the feared.

Book:Funny Boy

Funny Boy: A Novel

Shyam Selvadurai

Funny Boy is the debut of an extraordinary new voice in literary fiction. Set in Sri Lanka, it is a haunting novel about a boy growing up within an extended upper-middle-class family. Shyam Selvadurai subtly juxtaposes a boy’s passage to adolescence and maturity with the upheavals of growing ethnic tension and civil unrest.

Arjie, the protagonist, is “funny”: He likes to wear a sari and play with girls—and he hates sports. His bittersweet journey from the luminous simplicity of childhood days into the more intricately shaded world of adults—with its secrets, its ultimate capacity for violence and injustice—is beautifully rendered. And it is through Arjie’s eyes that we meet a delightful, sometimes eccentric, cast of characters. Among them: Arjie’s imposing grandmother, whose ideas of propriety are tested when one of her daughters returns from America; a young cousin, “Her Fatness,” who disturbs the natural order of things in a childhood…[more]

Book:The Museum of Love

The Museum of Love

Steve Weiner

A hallucinatory and startlingly powerful first novel, a darkly visionary On the Road for the upcoming millennium, The Museum of Love traces the macabre and compelling journey of a young French Canadian from his oppressive home town on the shores of Lake Superior across North America. His father is a morbid prison guard, his mother a mystical Catholic, his brother an adolescent saint and martyr while he, an innocent and receptive vessel, fiercely intelligent, anti-religious and tentatively homosexual, inhabits a vivid and strangely lit yet oddly recognizable world—the one that exists only on the inside of a dreamer’s eyelids, between the bed and the wall.

As Jean-Michel Verhaeren makes his surreal journey of madness and freedom, he experiences the walking wounded, suicides of friends, hostile geographies and periodic moments of extreme clarity—ecstatic visits to the Museums of Negritude, Religion, Love and Death. A work of phantasmagorias and ecstasies, of brutality and tenderness, The Museum of Love is an extraordinary debut.

Book:What You Need

What You Need: A Novel

Eliza Clark

Sparks fly when an escaped husband opens the door to a misguided strip-o-gram performed by a would-be country music back-up singer who believes she’s just murdered her cruel boyfriend. The strange and fateful convergence of T. Buddy Whelper and Dorene LaTisha Perney ignites one of the most unusual romances in recent fiction.

Told in the author’s original, acrobatic style, this bittersweet tale of love on the run is an ecstatic joy to read.

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