Anuja Varghese, whose debut short story collection won the fiction prize in this year's Governor General's Literary Awards. Photo: Jesse Valvasori
Governor General’s Literary Awards: Anuja Varghese’s ‘Chrysalis’ Among This Year’s Winners
Each of the 14 writers, illustrators and translators will receive a prize of $25,000 / BY Kisha Ferguson / November 8th, 2023
Author Anuja Varghese won this year’s Governor General’s Literary Award for fiction for her debut collection of short stories Chrysalis, which is centred around the lives of South Asian women and explores family, community and sexuality through a cultural lens. Calling it “passionate” and “sophisticated,” the judges awarded Chrysalis the prize, saying: “Each story is complex and intimate, the characters served by rich, evocative writing that goes to the heart of their humanity.”
Chrysalis is one of 14 titles across seven categories in both French and English that the Canada Council for the Arts — who administers the prizes — acknowledged as the best books of 2023 with the annual awards.
Kyo Maclear won the award in this year’s non-fiction category for her memoir Unearthing: A Story of Tangled Love and Family Secrets. Following a DNA test that reveals the father who raised her isn’t biologically related to her, Maclear sets out to discover the mystery of her lineage in a search that is tied to the planting of her garden. The judges described it as a quiet arresting work that, “…softens the line between memoir and philosophy.”
Taking the prize in the drama category is playwright and actor Cliff Cardinal’s William Shakespeare’s As You Like It: A Radical Retelling. Cardinal describes the play (which had its name later changed to The Land Acknowledgement, or As You Like It), as a “stand-up comedy piece that deals with our political places within Canada,” which, in fact, has nothing to do with Shakespeare. In awarding him the prize, the judges called his work a “blistering indictment” of Canada, saying: “It spares no one, not even the performer himself.”
The other categories awarded prizes were for illustration, French to English and English to French translation, young people’s literature [text and illustration] and poetry. French language awards were given in the same categories. Here is this year’s complete list of winners.
2023 English-language winners
Fiction: Chrysalis, by Anuja Varghese (Hamilton, Ontario) House of Anansi Press
Poetry: Xanax Cowboy, by Hannah Green (Winnipeg, Manitoba) House of Anansi Press
Drama: William Shakespeareʼs As You Like It: A Radical Retelling, by Cliff Cardinal (Toronto, Ontario) Playwrights Canada Press
Non-fiction: Unearthing, by Kyo Maclear (Toronto, Ontario) Knopf, Penguin Random House Canada
Young People’s Literature – Text: The Probability of Everything, by Sarah Everett (Edmonton, Alberta) Clarion Books, HarperCollins
Young People’s Literature – Illustrated Books: When You Can Swim, by Jack Wong (Halifax, Nova Scotia) Scholastic Canada
Translation (from French to English): Rosaʼs Very Own Personal Revolution, by Peter McCambridge (Québec City, Quebec) QC Fiction, Baraka Books. A translation of La logeuse, by Éric Dupont.
2023 French-language winners
Fiction: Galumpf, by Marie Hélène Poitras (Montréal, Quebec) Éditions Alto
Poetry: Atikᵁ utei. Le cœur du caribou, by Rita Mestokosho (Ekuanitshit, Quebec) Mémoire dʼencrier
Drama: Gros gars, by Mathieu Gosselin (Montréal, Quebec) Éditions Somme toute
Non-fiction: Faux rebelles : Les dérives du politiquement incorrect, by Philippe Bernier Arcand (Ottawa, Ontario) Éditions Poètes de brousse
Young People’s Literature – Text: Linoubliable, by Lou Beauchesne (Montréal, Quebec) la courte échelle
Young People’s Literature – Illustrated Books: Le plus petit sauveur du monde, by Samuel Larochelle and Eve Patenaude (Montréal, Quebec – les deux) Éditions XYZ
Translation (from English to French): Dans lʼombre du soleil: Réflexions sur la race et les récits, by Catherine Ego (Montréal, Quebec) Les Éditions du Boréal. A translation of Out of the Sun: On Race and Storytelling, by Esi Edugyan.
Visit the official website for more information on the winners and the Governor General’s Literary Awards.