What was the best first novel of 1991? Too soon to tell, but we can confide that the following have been selected as finalists for the 1991 Smithbooks / Books in Canada First Novel Award.
Generation X (McClelland & Stewart), by Douglas Coupland
Kleinberg (Oolichan), by Michael Kenyon
News from a Foreign Country Came (Random House), by Alberto Manguel
Such a Long Journey (McClelland & Stewart), by Rohinton Mistry
Woyzeck's Head (Cormorant), by Ekbert Faas
Douglas Coupland divides his time between Vancouver, Los Angeles, northern Scotland, and other "psychically strong" - as he calls them - regions. He has studied sculpture in Vancouver, Milan, and Sapporo, Japan, and has won two Canadian National Awards for Excellence in industrial design. He refuses to own furniture, and collects only meteorites, art objects, and letters, which he keeps locked in a vault in Vancouver. Generation X is the story of three young refugees from the world of yuppie wannabeism, who have chosen to abstain from a society that both bemuses and repels them.
Ekbert Faas was born in Berlin, and during the Second World War lived in Katovice, Silesia, and after the war Linder American and Soviet military occupation in the German Democratic Republic. He emigrated to North America in 1972 and currently lives in Toronto, where he is a writer, editor, and teacher. He is the author of Tragedy and After: Euripides, Shakespeare, Goethe (McGill-Queen's, 1984). Woyzeck's Head, which ranges over almost 200 years of German history, is about a condemned man and the evil that his story spawns.
Michael Kenyon was born in Sale, England, and since 1967 has lived on the west coast of British Columbia, most recently on North Pender Island. He is the author of the poetry collection Rack of Lamb (Brick Books, 1991), and his stories have taken prizes in the last three Prism international competitions. He is on the editorial board of the Malahat Review. Kleinberg probes the tangled lives of a diverse cast of characters, whose destinies are played out against the backdrop of an apparently conventional community.
Alberto Manguel is a writer, translator, and editor whose publications include Dark Arrows (Penguin, 1985), Evening Games (Penguin, 1986), and Other Fires (Lester & Orpen Dennys, 1986). He was born in Buenos Aires in 1948, educated in England, and now lives in Toronto. He will be head of the Arts journalism Program at the Banff Centre for the Arts for the next three years.
Rohinton Mistry was born in Bombay in 1952, and came to Canada in 1975. He began writing stories in 1983, while attending the University of Toronto, and the collection Tales from Firozsha Baag (Penguin) appeared in 1987. He lives near Toronto, where he is working on his next novel. Such a Long Journey, which won the 1991 Governor General's Award for Fiction in English, is set in Bombay in 1971, and relates how a hardworking family man is drawn into a network of intrigue and deception.