Published by Communications and Public Affairs (519) 824-4120, Ext. 56982 or 53338
October 23, 2002
U of G author nominated for Governor General's Literary Award
A University of Guelph professor has been nominated for a 2002 Governor General's Literary Award. Stephen Henighan, author of When Words Deny the World: The Reshaping of Canadian Writing is one of the five finalists in the non-fiction category.
Henighan teaches Spanish-American literature and culture in the school of languages and literatures at the university. In addition to his nominated book, he is the author of four books of fiction, one academic book and numerous articles.
The book is a collection of essays that examine the impact of free trade and globalization on Canadian literature in the 1990s. Henighan shows how both the structure of the publishing industry and the themes and references in particular novels in the 1990s have been affected. Analysing celebrated books such as Michael Ondaatje's The English Patient, Anne Michaels's Fugitive Pieces and Carol Shield's The Stone Diaries as products of a free trade culture has not been well received by all media, said Henighan, so he was surprised at the nomination.
"I was delighted because it has stirred up such different emotions in people," he said. "Part of my argument is that the inherent Canadian tendency toward politeness is accentuated and to some extent overlaid by a corporate publicity gloss, which makes it very difficult to have any kind of debate about what is and isn't good."
Henighan admits that When Words Deny the World: The Reshaping of Canadian Writing has received a lot more attention than he would have expected from a book of literary essays about Canadian literature. The book is now in its second printing because of what he describes as "a huge grassroots groundswell." Since the book came out in April, he's been receiving several messages a week from people thanking him for creating an avenue to discuss Canadian books with more honesty.
Henighan is going on a five-day tour of the Maritimes Nov. 5 to 10 to promote his book. He'll be speaking at Dalhousie University, Mount Allison University and several book stores in New Brunswick, Nova Scotia and P.E.I.
The other authors shortlisted in the non-fiction category are Carolyn Abraham, Jill Frayne, Don McKay and Andrew Nikiforuk. The winners will be announced Nov. 12, and Governor General Adrienne Clarkson will present the awards at Rideau Hall Nov. 19.
Later this fall, Henighan will travel to the west coast to promote his latest book, Lost Province: Adventures in a Moldova Family, which comes out in two weeks. It is the first mainstream book on the former Soviet republic. He describes it as a travel memoir of his observations of problems a family faced during a period of political crisis. Henighan lived with a family while he was teaching English in Moldova in the early '90s.
"I happened to be living there when there was a huge crisis as a result of the passage of a new language law," he said. "I went back last summer to track down everybody I had known and lived with to see how their lives had changed." The changes he observed were extraordinary. "Moldova's gross domestic product now is one-third what it was in the last year it was part of the Soviet Union It's now the poorest country in Europe." Because he knew the family before this crisis, he is able to describe the deterioration of their living conditions over the past decade.
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