Padma Viswanathan was named as one of the six writers on the prestigious Giller Prize shortlist on Monday for her novel The Ever After of Ashwin Rao.
“It feels like being invited to sit down at a table I’ve been watching enviously from afar,” said Viswanathan, who set her novel in a fictional Nelson called Lohikarma.
She posted the following on her Facebook page shortly after the announcement was made in Toronto:
“While this is one of my proudest moments–and yes, today included bourbon and bubbly—and yes, I have again thanked my husband, parents, editor and agents for their passionate investments—and yes, I’m particularly chuffed that the jury comments show they got what I was trying to do—I have been thinking with awe of the many Canadian writers who formed me, whose books I return to and admire and carry in my head (many of them whom didn’t necessarily make prize lists). How thrilling to take a part in this conversation: Canadian literature. I hope I’m worthy.”
Viswanathan said she couldn’t have properly depicted her main character Ashwin Rao’s inner journey without the geographical inspiration she derived from Nelson.
“I don’t think people realize how much this is a location novel. It really embodies Nelson’s spirit. People talk about it as a Canadian novel, but really it’s a Kootenay novel. That sense of a protected crevice, the lake, and Ashwin’s experience of that place…The distance he travels emotionally is inseparable from being in that place, surrounded by those people,” she said.
The Ever After of Ashwin Rao explores the aftermath of the Air India bombings. It follows an Indian psychotherapist who is treating survivors’ families and doing a study of comparative grief. Viswanathan said she’s thrilled the jurors recognized that her novel isn’t only an issue-based work.
“The issues I take up are present in the work, but I didn’t feel like the jury was emphasizing it at the expense of the literary aspect, or the language. It’s important to me that there are funny bits. I got a hearty response, not a precious one. And I found that so gratifying,” she said.
The other five shortlisted books are The Betrayers by David Bezmozgis, Tell by Frances Itani, Us Conductors by Sean Michaels, The Girl Who Was Saturday Night by Heather O’Neill and All My Puny Sorrows by Miriam Toews.
“These are all people with enormous artistic integrity, that I admire. There are no sell-outs or cheap choices. They’re all rockstars,” said Viswanathan.
The Giller Prize was founded in 1994 by Jack Rabinovitch to honour his late wife Doris Giller. This year it was announced the cash prize for the winner would double from $50,000 to $100,000. The other finalists will receive $10,000.
The finalists were chosen by a three-member jury consisting of Canadian author Shauna Signh Baldwin, British novelist Justin Cartwright and American writer Francine Prose. They selected the six titles from a long-list of 12, which had been narrowed down from 161 titles from 63 publishing houses.
The winner will be revealed during a gala hosted by Jian Ghomeshi on Monday, Nov. 10.