2014 Giller Prize remarks by founder Jack Rabinovitch and Scotiabank President & CEO Brian Porter

Giller Prize founder Jack Rabinovitch and Scotiabank President & CEO Brian Porter had prepared remarks for the Scotiabank Giller Prize festivities on Monday, November 10th, but circumstances prevented them from delivering them. We want to share those remarks with you.

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Photo credit: Tom Sandler Photography
Giller Prize founder Jack Rabinovitch and Scotiabank President & CEO Brian Porter

Brian Porter

Thank you Rick – and good evening everyone.

Scotiabank is delighted to support the Giller competition – the preeminent celebration of Canadian literature.

Through the tireless efforts of Jack and his family, the Scotiabank Giller Prize has elevated Canadian fiction both here in Canada, and internationally.

This year’s shortlisted works reflect a true Canadian perspective. They tell wonderful stories about diverse events that have unfolded here in Canada and from around the world – artfully told by some of Canada’s finest literary voices.

Great storytelling is one of the best and most lasting ways that all of us can support our communities, and reinforce our national identity.

We are fortunate in Canada to have such culturally rich and diverse communities. That matters to Canadians – and it matters to all of us at Scotiabank.

We look forward to a great evening. And we want to congratulate all of the finalists – and wish each of you the best of luck tonight.

Thank you.

Jack Rabinovitch

Good evening, ladies and gentlemen. Welcome to this evening’s Scotiabank Giller Gala.

To begin, I should highlight that the partnership with Scotiabank has been a warm and gracious one. Their commitment to Canadian literature and this prize has been outstanding.

And as you know CBC has been our exceptional broadcast partner for the last four years and will be telecasting this evening’s event across Canada. We have Heather Conway, Jennifer Dettman and Grazyna Krupa to thank for that. They have done an outstanding job of bringing this literary event to hundreds of thousands of viewers.

First I would like to recognize and thank this year’s jury who read 161 books to select the final six we celebrate this evening. The judges are Francine Prose, Justin Cartwright and Shauna Singh Baldwin. Please stand up and be recognized.

The six finalists we celebrate this evening are here in the front row and they are:

  • David Bezmozgis for The Betrayers
  • Frances Itani for Tell
  • Sean Michaels for Us Conductors
  • Heather O’Neill for The Girl Who Was Saturday Night
  • Miriam Toews for All My Puny Sorrows
  • Padma Viswanathan for The Ever After of Ashwin Rao

Congratulations and good luck to you all.

As you know, this year because of the major support of our partner Scotiabank, the prize is now $100,000 for the winner and $10,000 for each of the finalists.

Indeed you are richer than you think.

Sorry, I just couldn’t pass up using that appropriate line.

As per custom I have traditionally recognized former premiers of the province and this year in attendance are the Honorables David Peterson, Bob Rae and Ernie Eves. Bill Davis was unfortunately unable to make it this evening.

This year we also want to recognize the new Mayor elect of Toronto, John Tory. Congratulations, John.

I know that as in previous years many of the people here will bet on who the final winner will be. Just a word of caution … Rob Prichard has been a perennial winner.

At this time I would also like to thank some of the people and firms who have contributed to this evening and the Scotiabank Giller Prize. Barry Avrich, Gallant Law and Elana Rabinovitch have been responsible for producing a series of wonderful, insightful and entertaining reading sessions across the country hosted by Carol Off and Seamus O’Regan.

Thank you for all your efforts.

Elana Rabinovitch has been, and continues to be, the overall spirit and coordinator of this prize.

Aimia has assisted in defraying the travel costs associated with this prize and Cineplex has promoted this evening’s telecast across the entire country.

Thank you all.

Tomorrow as you know, we will all celebrate Remembrance Day to honour the fallen soldiers of the last two great wars.

Tonight I would like to honour several great Canadian authors who are no longer with us.

Farley Mowat died this year and his former publisher Anna Porter said, “He was cantankerous, argumentative, vehement, passionate and opinionated but a magnificent storyteller with the ability to charm, enrage and engage his readers.”

Alistair MacLeod, a close personal friend, is also gone. David Staines, one of the co-founders of this prize, said that Alistair’s writings have achieved and will maintain a permanent place in the world’s fiction. He is absolutely right. Alistair’s books No Great Mischief and Remembrance are exceptional. Alistair was also a judge when the jury selected two winners. He apologized in his puckish manner and promised it would never happen again. He was right.

Another great friend and great writer, Mavis Gallant, also passed away this year. Francine Prose, one of this year’s jurors, said, “She is an exquisite stylist, a writer of profound depth and wit of wild originality and acute psychological insight.”

I would add that she was also stubborn and irascible.

Mavis said of her own writing, “I do not know what impels any one of sound mind to leave dry land and spend a lifetime describing people who do not exist.”

Mavis was a special friend and the year she was a judge I recounted the story of when Doris and I were at the winter Olympics in Calgary. We had been invited to the ABC studio and while we were there Doris spotted an electrician with an ABC cap and pin on it. In her most coquettish fashion, she batted her eyelashes and asked if she could have the pin. The electrician replied, “Sorry lady – no.” As we walked away, Doris leaned in to me and said, “Jackson, ten years ago I would have got the pin and the hat.”

When I sat down beside Mavis, she nudged me and said, “Jack, you know Doris’ comment … every woman feels that way.”

Enjoy the evening.