Esi Edugyan’s novel Half-Blood Blues is this year’s winner of the C$50,000 Scotiabank Giller Prize, Canada’s richest prize for fiction.
Although Edugyan’s book was also shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize, as well as Canada’s other two prominent fiction awards, the Governor General’s Literary Award and the Rogers Writers’ Trust Fiction prize, the Victoria- based author still said she didn’t really expect to win and hadn’t prepared a speech beyond a few scrawled notes.
Pausing frequently to calm herself, Edugyan said she was honored to accept the prize and thanked her Canadian publisher Thomas Allen Publishers, particularly Patrick Crean. “He saved this book when it most needed saving, after Key Porter that wonderful Canadian house fell apart, he believed in the book and purchased it, and I’m so thankful for that.”
Crean acquired the book at the London Book Fair this spring after Edugyan’s husband Steven Price, also an author publishing with Thomas Allen, recommended it to him. “It’s been selling steadily since we bought it in August,” he said. When asked if he was ready for the “Giller effect,” in which winning books sometimes increase in sales by more than 500%, he said, “We’re now in our fourth printing. And we’re going to be pushing the button tomorrow on a sizeable number.“ Picador will publish Half-Blood in the U.S. February 28 as a trade paperback original.\
Frances Coady, publisher of Picador said: “We are delighted for Esi. This was a particularly strong shortlist, and I can only agree with the Scotiabank Giller Prize Judges who said: “any jazz musician would be happy to play the way Edugyan writes. Her style is deceptively conversational and easy, but with the simultaneous exuberance and discipline of a true prodigy. Put this book next to Louis Armstrong’s “West End Blues” – these two works of art belong together.” We are very excited to be publishing this extraordinary novel in February 2012.
Edugyan also thanked her Key Porter editor Jane Warren and Serpent’s Tail editor in the U.K., John Williams, and her father, who immigrated to Canada from Ghana when she was a a child.
Chosen from 143 submissions and a shortlist of six books, Half-Blood Blues is the story of Hiero, a brilliant jazz musician, black and German, who was arrested by the Nazis and disappeared, and his friend and fellow musician, Sid.
The other finalists – David Bezmozgis for The Free World (HarperCollins Canada), Lynn Coady for The Antagonist, Patrick deWitt for The Sisters Brothers (House of Anansi), Zsuzsi Gartner for Better Living through Plastic Explosives (Hamish Hamilton Canada), and Michael Ondaatje for The Cat’s Table (McClelland &Stewart)-- each receive $5,000.