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Giller speculation

It’s safe to say that last year’s Giller Prize-winner, Vincent Lam’s Bloodletting & Miraculous Cures, caught some pundits off-guard. (Ahem.) This year, the peanut gallery has kept curiously mum on who will take home the $40,000 prize (which, of course, is being awarded tonight in Toronto).

Except, that is, for a trio of Globe and Mail panelists made up of “Review”-section editor Andrew Gorham and writers Sandra Martin and James Adams, who say unanimously that the Giller should go to Ondaatje for Divisadero. Only Andrews thinks the prize won’t go to Ondaatje – he’s laying his bet on Elizabeth Hay’s Late Nights on Air. (Hay seems to have captured the popular vote, too.)

Literary merit aside, Gorham thinks the timing is right for a Hay win: “It feels like this is Hay’s moment because she has been building in our literary landscape with each book that she publishes,” he says.

Meanwhile, the Toronto Star teases readers with a recent headline — “Which book is likely to win the Giller?” — but finds the question too hot to handle (so does CBCNews.ca, for that matter). Instead of giving a straightforward answer, publishing reporter Vit Wagner coughs up some BookNet Canada sales data (for Quillblog’s take, see here) and simply says:

Winning a Scotiabank Giller Prize or a Governor General’s Award is guaranteed to boost the sales of any author, with relatively unsung writers having the most to gain.

The National Post hardly raises the bar, leading its Giller coverage with this eye-opener:

Novelists tend to command unnatural facility with language and possess keen powers of observation and a high tolerance for solitude. Talking to them can be intimidating.

This Quillblogger, however, is reserving speculation on who will take home the Giller in light of news out of France that the Renaudot prize — the country’s second most prestigious literary contest — was awarded to an author who wasn’t even on the shortlist.

But the biggest surprise of today’s announcements, not least to the novelist himself, was the award of the Renaudot prize to Daniel Pennac. Chagrins d’École was not even among the five titles selected for the final round of the award, which is second only to the Goncourt in importance to French readers.

“It’s a complete surprise,” he declared to journalists as he arrived late for the celebration at the Drouant restaurant in Paris. “I expected it even less since I wasn’t even on the programme,” he added. “There must have been something amusing happening [on the panel],” he suggested.

While a similar upset is unlikely at the well-scripted Gillers, the French shenanigans bode well for seemingly overlooked titles like, say, Lawrence Hill’s The Book of Negros.

To brush up on all the Giller nominees, see Q&Q‘s reviews:

Effigy by Alissa York
A Secret Between Us by Daniel Poliquin (trans. Donald Winkler)
The Assassin’s Song by M.G. Vassanji
Late Nights on Air by Elizabeth Hay
Divisadero by Michael Ondaatje