Victoria writer Esi Edugyan won the $100,000 Scotiabank Giller Prize for her novel Washington Black, published by Patrick Crean Editions. The award was announced Monday evening at a black-tie dinner and award ceremony hosted by Canadian comedian, television personality and author Rick Mercer and attended by nearly 500 members of the publishing, media and arts communities.
Canadian writers Kamal Al-Solaylee, Maxine Bailey and Heather O’Neill along with American writer John Freeman and English novelist Philip Hensher made up the jury panel.
“How often history asks us to underestimate those trapped there,” the jury wrote of Washington Black. “This remarkable novel imagines what happens when a black man escapes history’s inevitable clasp – in his case, in a hot air balloon no less. Washington Black, the hero of Esi Edugyan’s novel is born in the 1800s in Barbados with a quick mind, a curious eye and a yearning for adventure. In conjuring Black’s vivid and complex world – as cruel empires begin to crumble and the frontiers of science open like astounding vistas – Edugyan has written a supremely engrossing novel about friendship and love and the way identity is sometimes a far more vital act of imagination than the age in which one lives.”
Edugyan won the Scotiabank Giller Prize in 2011 for her novel Half-Blood Blues.