Ian Williams wins Canada's top literary award for fiction

TORONTO (Reuters) - Writer Ian Williams won Canada’s top annual literary award for fiction for his book “Reproduction,” the prize’s sponsor said on Monday.

“Reproduction,” published by Random House Canada, explores the bonds between family and how they are formed, through individuals in a Toronto suburb.

“You have no idea how special this is to me,” Williams told the audience while accepting the Scotiabank Giller Prize. The award carries a cash prize of C$100,000 ($75,901.33) while each of the other five shortlisted finalists takes home C$10,000.

The Giller Prize was founded in 1994 by Jack Rabinovitch, a Montreal-born real estate developer, in memory of his late wife Doris Giller, a literary journalist. Notable Canadian writers including Alice Munro and Mordecai Richler supported its creation, and Scotiabank began backing the award in 2005.

The six shortlisted finalists were chosen from a list of 117 submissions.

Williams’ family emigrated to Canada from Trinidad in the late 80s, according to an interview he gave to the National Post newspaper in 2013. Williams, who is an assistant professor of poetry in the University of British Columbia’s creative writing program, is based in Vancouver and grew up in Brampton, Ontario.

Notable previous winners of the award include Canadian literary giants such as Munro, Richler, Margaret Atwood and Michael Ondaatje. Atwood and Munro are both on the prize’s advisory board, which is separate from the jury.

Atwood’s most recent book, “The Testaments,” a sequel to her popular 1985 dystopian novel “The Handmaid’s Tale,” was long-listed for the award this year.

In selecting Williams’ book for the prize, the jury called it “an engrossing story of disparate people brought together and also a masterful unfolding of unexpected connections and collisions between and across lives otherwise separated by race, class, gender and geography.”

Williams thanked Atwood, who was present at the gala, and said the first book he bought with his own money was one of hers. He also thanked Rabinovitch, who died in 2017, for his support of the arts.

“If you’re wealthy and got tons of money... support whatever moves you,” Williams told the audience.

Reporting by Moira Warburton; Editing by Denny Thomas and Gerry Doyle