Annal: 2008 Governor General's Literary Award for Fiction

Results of the Governor General's Literary Award in the year 2008.

Book:The Origin of Species

The Origin of Species: A Novel

Nino Ricci

Montreal during the turbulent mid-1980’s: Chernobyl has set geiger counters thrumming across the globe, HIV/AIDS is cutting a deadly swath through the gay population worldwide, and locally, tempers are flaring over the language laws of Bill 101. Hiding out in a seedy apartment near the Concordia campus is Alex Fratarcangeli (“Don’t worry… I can’t even pronounce it myself”), a somewhat oafish 30-something grad student. Though tender and generous at heart, Alex leads a life devoid of healthy relationships, ashamed in particular of the damage he has done to the women with whom he has been romantically entangled. Plagued by the sensation that his entire life is a fraud, Alex attends daily sessions with a lackluster psychoanalyst in an attempt to shake off the demon of depression (and the cigarette-tinged voice of Peter Gzowski in his ear). Scarred by a distant father and a dangerous relationship with his ex Liz, and consumed by a floundering dissertation linking Darwin’s theory of evolution with the history…[more]

Book:Atmospheric Disturbances

Atmospheric Disturbances: A Novel

Rivka Galchen

When Dr. Leo Liebenstein’s wife disappears, she leaves behind a single, confounding clue: a woman who looks, talks, and behaves exactly like her—or almost exactly like her—and even audaciously claims to be her. While everyone else is fooled by this imposter, Leo knows better than to trust his senses in matters of the heart. Certain that the original Rema is alive and in hiding, Leo embarks on a quixotic journey to reclaim his lost love.  With the help of his psychiatric patient Harvey—who believes himself to be a secret agent who can control the weather—Leo attempts to unravel the mystery of the spousal switch. His investigation leads him to the enigmatic guidance of the meteorologist Dr. Tzvi Gal-Chen, the secret workings of the Royal Academy of Meteorology in their cosmic conflict with the 49 Quantum Fathers, and the unwelcome conviction that somehow he—or maybe his wife, or maybe even Harvey—lies at the center of all these unfathomables. From the streets of New York to the southernmost reaches…[more]

Book:Cockroach

Cockroach

Rawi Hage

One of the most highly anticipated novels of the year, Cockroach is as urgent, unsettling, and brilliant as Rawi Hage’s bestselling and critically acclaimed first book, De Niro’s Game. The novel takes place during one month of a bitterly cold winter in Montreal’s restless immigrant community, where a self-described “thief” has just tried but failed to commit suicide by hanging himself from a tree in a local park. Rescued against his will, the narrator is obliged to attend sessions with a well-intentioned but naïve therapist. This sets the story in motion, leading us back to the narrator’s violent childhood in a war-torn country, forward into his current life in the smoky émigré cafés where everyone has a tale, and out into the frozen night-time streets of Montreal, where the thief survives on the edge, imagining himself to be a cockroach invading the lives of the privileged, but willfully blind, citizens who surround him.

Like De Niro’s Game, Cockroach combines an uncompromising vision of humanity with razor-sharp portraits of society’s outsiders, and a startling, poetic sensibility with bracing jolts of dark humour.

Book:The Great Karoo

The Great Karoo

Fred Stenson

From award-winning author Fred Stenson comes a richly evocative new novel, at once brutal and tender, spare of language, and profoundly moving.

The Great Karoo begins in 1899, as the British are trying to wrest control of the riches of South Africa from the Boers, the Dutch farmers who claimed the land. The Boers have turned out to be more resilient than expected, so the British have sent a call to arms to their colonies—and an a great number of men from the Canadian prairies answer the call and join the Canadian Mounted Rifles: a unit in which they can use their own beloved horses. They assume their horses will be able to handle the desert terrain of the Great Karoo as readily as the plains of their homeland. Frank Adams, a cowboy from Pincher Creek, joins the Rifles, along with other young men from the ranches and towns nearby—a mix of cowboys and mounted policeman, who, for whatever reason,…[more]

Book:The Lost Highway

The Lost Highway: A Novel

David Adams Richards

For twenty years, Alex Chapman—a worn out academic and failed priest—has been at war with his great-uncle James, a man known in his small-town community as “The Tyrant.“ Embittered and disillusioned, Alex believes that James is responsible for his harsh childhood, for the loss of his one true love, and ultimately, for the unfortunate direction his life has taken. So when Alex runs into the slow-witted local auto mechanic who claims he has just given James Chapman a winning lottery ticket worth thirteen million dollars, Alex sees his chance for revenge and plots to steal the ticket away from his aging uncle.

Thus begins an emotionally shattering story of a family’s deep-seated grudges and dangerous passions, all set around a lonely, country road where rival provinces have converged for years. A chilling exploration of what happens when our moral questions become matters of life and death, The Lost Highway is a page-turning tale of small-town jealousy and corruption.

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