Will Ferguson wins the Giller

Calgary humourist Will Ferguson took home the Giller Prize for his novel 419, where he took on a more serious tone focusing on an email scam in Nigeria and a woman searching for her father’s killer.

During his speech upon receiving the $50,000 prize, he urged everyone to have a drink on behalf of literature: “I’d like to raise a toast to the written word,” he said, pulling a flask out of the sporran attached to his kilt.

“So. Thanks. Ladies and gentlemen: To the written word. And finally, to answer the question you’re all wondering — yes I have something on underneath!” he joked.

Ferguson is widely known for his comedy prowess – he has won the Stephen Leacock Memorial Medal for humor writing three times. But 419 isn’t his first stab at more serious writing. His previous novel, Spanish Fly, also took on scammers, a historical piece focusing on con artists in the 1930s.

He joked that writing two books about scammers has made him “very, very paranoid.”

“The more you write about cons, you start to see them everywhere. It’s like when your wife’s pregnant and you see pregnant women everywhere, it’s the same idea,” he said after picking up the prize.

This year’s Giller jury members, Roddy Doyle of Ireland, Gary Shteyngart of New York, and Toronto-based Anna Porter, had this to say about their winner: “It is tempting to put 419 in some easy genre category, but that would only serve to deny its accomplishment and its genius.”

When asked what he will do with the prize money, his response was, “We’ll travel for sure, at some point.”

Ferguson has lived in Ecuador and Japan, and is known for his travel writing. He plans to continue this work with his next book which will focus on Rwanda.

The ceremony, hosted for the second time in a row by CBC personality Jian Ghomeshi, featured presentations from Canadian stars such as actress Kim Cattrall,  actor Allan Hawco and gold medallist Rosie MacLennan.

The prize was established in 1994 by businessman Jack Rabinovitch to honour his late wife, literary journalist Doris Giller. It celebrates the best Canadian novel or short story collection published in English each year, and every finalist receives $5,000.

This year’s jury read a total of 142 works of fiction submitted by 51 different publishing houses all across Canada.

Click here to read an excerpt from the winning novel.

Sources: Giller Prize, Calgary Herald, CBC, National Post


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