A book by a well-known Toronto author won a $10,000 prize for non-fiction last month and is in the running for a second $10,000 prize to be awarded in May (2001).
Erna Paris’s sixth book, Long Shadows: Truth, Lies and History, which was published last year by Knopf Canada, was awarded the Pearson Writers’ Trust Non-Fiction Prize last month in a ceremony in Toronto. The book has been described as “an exploration of how our world deals, or fails to deal, with the aftermath of great violence, horror, and acts of inhumanity.”
The jury’s citation described Long Shadows as “a work of philosophical depth and moral courage. It is distinguished by vivid and precise prose, equally successful in sketching subtleties of personality and in exploring complex moral issues.”
Weeks after picking up that prestigious award, Paris was nominated as a finalist for the inaugural Writers’ Trust of Canada Shaughnessy Cohen Prize for Political Writing. As one of five authors on the short list, Paris automatically wins a $1,000 prize.
The other short-listed authors are Victoria Freeman, Myrna Kostash, Carol Off and Margaret Somerville. The winner is to be announced at an Ottawa awards dinner on May 2.
Paris, whose previous books include The End of Days (about Jewish history in Spain), The Garden and the Gun (about Israel) and Jews: An Account of Their Experience in Canada, said it was always hard to know why one book does better than another. “I suspect that publishing with Knopf Canada has had something to do with the kind of outreach that Long Shadows has had,” she said.
Winning the Pearson Prize and being nominated for the Shaughnessy Cohen Prize “feels marvelous, because every writer wants to be read and wants to have the widest audience possible. And these prizes extend the number of people who will read Long Shadows, and naturally that’s important to me.”
A Toronto-based production company, Sleeping Giant Productions, has begun work on a multi-part television documentary series based on Long Shadows in conjunction with a German television production company and distributor, Paris said. The book has been translated for readers in Germany, and is slated for publication in both Britain and the United States in June.
“I’m very impressed that the judges for the Shaughnessy Cohen award have short-listed me,” Paris said. “I’m impressed that they’ve understood and been willing to acknowledge that the implications of Long Shadows go beyond the specific countries that I’m dealing with, and they’re as valid for Canada as for any other place, even though I don’t deal specifically with Canada in the book.”
Paris said she has not begun work on a new book as yet. “I’m going to be working on the film documentary series for the next while, but I hope to start something new in the fall,” she said. ♦
© 2001 by Bill Gladstone