Sarah Bernstein won the 2023 Scotiabank Giller Prize for her novel Study for obedience.
The $100,000 prize is the richest in Canadian literature.
Bernstein is a Montreal-born author and creative writing teacher currently living in Scotland. He joined the evening virtually, as just 10 days earlier she had given birth to a new baby.
“I really couldn’t believe it,” he told CBC Books in an interview shortly after his win. “I’m still having a hard time absorbing the information, but you feel like it’s a joke someone is playing on you or something.”
“I haven’t slept much in about 10 days. So I think the surreal feeling continues. The boundaries of everything are a little blurry.”
“I feel really privileged to have had the opportunity to tell this story and I often think about how important it is more than ever to support writers in material ways to tell the stories of their own people in their own way, especially when their ” The stories challenge dominant historical narratives,” he said in his acceptance speech.
His other books include his 2021 novel. The bad days that come and his collection of prose poems Now comes the lightning. Bernstein was named one of Granta’s Best Young British Novelists of 2023.
Study for obedience It is also shortlisted for the 2023 Booker Prize.
Creating form in fiction
Study for obedience explores themes of guilt, abuse and prejudice through the eyes of its unreliable narrator. In it, a woman leaves her hometown to move to a “remote northern country” to work as a housekeeper for her brother, whose wife recently decided to leave him. Shortly after her arrival, the community is surprised by unusual events, from mass bovine hysteria to a potato blight. When the locals direct her growing suspicion of the newcomers toward her, her hostility becomes more palpable.
“She can’t imagine what a life should be like or what a life should be like. In the first instance, she looks to her family to tell her how to be, and then as she gets older, she has invested a lot, although she doesn’t talk about it much , in his attempt to have a career as a journalist,” Bernstein said in an interview with The next chapter.
“I was thinking a little bit about what it means when you invest so much in your personality, in a career that feels like a calling, but you can’t succeed in that career or you can’t get some kind of security in that career. You end up quitting, and “That doesn’t shape her life either. That’s partly why she moves back in with her brother, because she’s still looking for that external validation, for the world to pressure her and create a shape for her and not the other way around.”
“The stories that people tell about themselves and their own stories are really powerful,” she told CBC Books. “They can do a lot of damage; they can put a lot of distance between people. But I think one of the things that also interested me is the way that the book points to a potentially reparative function of narrative in the sense of the capacity of history to keep different realities or different truths next to each other, even if that relationship is very uncomfortable.
The next chapter12:46Sarah Bernstein’s Obedience Study Explores Power and Complicity
Bernstein’s fellow finalists include Kevin Chong, Eleanor Catton, Dionne Irving and CS Richardson.
Canadian poet and fiction writer Ian Williams chaired the five-person jury this year. He was joined by Canadian authors Sharon Bala, Brian Thomas Isaac and international authors Rebecca Makkai and Neel Mukherjee. The editors submitted 145 titles for consideration, which was narrowed down to a long list of 12 titles before the five-book short list was revealed.
“The modernist experiment continues to burn incandescently in Sarah Bernstein’s short novel, Study for obedience. Bernstein poses the indelible question: What does a culture of subjugation, erasure, and dismissal of women produce? In this book, equal parts poisoned and sympathetic, Bernstein’s unnamed protagonist sets out to demand, in surprisingly twisted ways, the price for everything the world has withheld from her. The prose sometimes refracts Javier Marías, other times Samuel Beckett. “It is an unexpected and fang-filled book, and its own studied retentions create a powerful mesmeric effect,” the jury stated in a press release.
Protesters interrupt the broadcast
This year’s televised in-person gala in Toronto was hosted by comedian, television personality and author Rick Mercer. The broadcast was interrupted twice by anti-Israel protesters. The first time was at the beginning of the broadcast, when protesters shouted and jumped on stage with signs that said “Scotiabank Fund Genocide.” The second time they shouted at each other just as Bernstein’s name was called, forcing the organizers to repeat the announcement. Protesters were escorted by police, but the CBC broadcast kept cameras away from the incident for viewers at home.
BREAKING NEWS: Protesters disrupt Giller Prize ceremony @scotiabank tonight. Scotiabank is financing the genocide of the Palestinian people through its $500 million stake in Elbit Systems, Israel’s largest weapons manufacturer. pic.twitter.com/agWTD0kfOx
Toronto businessman Jack Rabinovitch founded the award in honor of his late wife, literary journalist Doris Giller, in 1994. Rabinovitch He died in 2017 at the age of 87..
Last year’s winner was Suzette Mayr for her novel The sleeping car porter.
Other previous Giller Prize winners include Omar El Akkad for What a strange paradise, Souvankham Thammavongsa for How to pronounce knife, Esi Edugyan for black washington, Michael Redhill for Bellevue Square, Margaret Atwood for alias grace, Mordecai Richler for Barney’s version, Alice Munro for Flee, andré alexis for fifteen dogs and Madeleine Thien for Don’t say we have nothing.