Indian-origin author short-listed for Canadian literary prize

Toronto, Oct 10 (IANS) A Canadian author of Indian origin is among five novelists who have been short-listed for this year’s prestigious Scotiabank Giller Prize.

M.G. Vassanji, who has won the Giller Prize twice before — in 1994 and again in 2003 — has been short-listed for his work “The Assassin’s Song”, which chronicles the clash of modernity and tradition in India.

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Others who have been short-listed are Michael Ondaatje for “Divisadero”, which takes the reader from California gold rush country in the 1970s to Nevada casinos and south central France; Daniel Poliquin for “A Secret Between Us”, set in Ottawa against the backdrop of the First World War; Elizabeth Hay for “Late Nights on Air” about the goings-on at a Yellowknife radio station in the mid-1970s and Alissa York for “Effigy”, set on a Mormon ranch in 19th century Utah, The Star newspaper reported.

Vassanji grew up in East Africa — he was born in Nairobi, Kenya in 1950, and was raised in Tanzania. While attending the University of Nairobi he won a scholarship to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology to study nuclear physics.

After completing his Ph.D. at the University of Pennsylvania, Vassanji moved to Canada in 1978 to work at the Chalk River nuclear laboratories. In 1980, he moved to Toronto to begin his writing career. He lives in Toronto with his wife and two sons.

The Scotiabank Giller Prize is given to the author of a Canadian novel or short story fiction collection, including translations, published in English. The prize was established in 1994 by Toronto businessman Jack Rabinovitch in honour of his late wife Doris Giller, a former literary editor at the Toronto Star.

In 2005, the Giller Prize established an endorsement deal with Scotiabank, a major Canadian bank. The prize package for the award was increased from $25,000 to $50,000. The award’s official name was also changed at that time to the Scotiabank Giller Prize.