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Edugyan, deWitt among fresh faces on Giller shortlist

In introducing the jury for the 2011 Scotiabank Giller Prize, founder Jack Rabinovitch told a crowd of media and publishing professionals assembled in Toronto that this year’s crop of nominees “dignifies world literature, not only Canadian literature.”

Indeed, the jurors for this year’s prize seemed to find common ground with their counterparts at the Man Booker Prize and the Rogers Writers’ Trust Fiction Prize in nominating Patrick deWitt’s The Sisters Brothers (House of Anansi Press) and Esi Edugyan’s Half-Blood Blues (Thomas Allen Publishers), a pair of novels cosmopolitan in spirit. Both writers are from the West Coast and have seemingly come out of nowhere to earn international acclaim for their sophomore novels about, respectively, the California gold rush and a jazz musician who disappears in Nazi-occupied Paris.

Most of this year’s finalists are relative newcomers: critical darling David Bezmozgis is nominated for his first novel, The Free World (HarperCollins Canada), Lynn Coady gets the nod for her fourth novel, The Antagonist (Anansi), and short story writer Zsuzsi Gartner has been singled out for her collection Better Living Through Plastic Explosives (Hamish Hamilton Canada).

For the first time since 2004, the shortlist includes six titles. It is rounded out by a heavy favourite: The Cat’s Table by Michael Ondaatje, who has twice been shortlisted for the prize and was a co-winner in 2000 for Anil’s Ghost (M&S). Absent from the list are other former finalists Wayne Johnston, Guy Vanderhaeghe, and Marina Endicott.

This year’s jury comprises former finalist Annabel Lyon, American author Howard Norman, and Scottish playwright and novelist Andrew O’Hagan. The winner will be announced Nov. 8 at a Toronto gala, which will be broadcast live on CBC’s Bold TV and live-streamed on the CBC Books website.