The Trinidadian-Canadian author takes home an $11,000 prize for his latest novel.
Rabindranath Maharaj won the 2011 Toronto Book Award for his novel The Amazing Absorbing Boy at a reception hosted by the CBC’s Matt Galloway at the Toronto Reference Library’s Appel Salon Tuesday night. The award, established by the City in 1974 and attached to an $11,000 prize, is given to books selected on a basis of literary or artistic merit and an evocation of Toronto’s unique character; past recipients have included the likes of Michael Ondaatje, Robertson Davies, and Margaret Atwood among many other notable locals. Representing Rob Ford and Toronto City Council, Councillor Gary Crawford (Ward 36, Scarborough Southwest) said of the 2011 finalist roundup: “All of these authors tell great stories about Toronto and can be very proud of their work.”
Trinidad-born and Ajax-based Rabindranath Maharaj is the author of five novels and three short story collections, which have been nominated for the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize, the Rogers Fiction Prize, the Chapters/Books in Canada First Novel Award, and the Bocas Literature Award. He is also the winner of the 2011 Trillium English Language Fiction Prize. A committee selected his latest novel for the Toronto Book Award from a group of finalists that included Alyssa York’s Fauna, James FitzGerald’s What Disturbs Our Blood, James King’s Etienne’s Alphabet, and Nicholas Ruddock’s The Parabolist.
“The difference between the book that wins an award and the (other finalists) is so negligible that it’s really inconsequential,” said Maharaj upon accepting his prize. “Every book here, every shortlisted book, deserved this award.”
Host Matt Galloway was quick to point out how Maharaj’s book is a portrait of a great city as much as a study of human perseverance. “The characters that are in The Amazing Absorbing Boy risk life and limb, do everything they can to get here, despite the fact that they don’t know what they’re going to get when they arrive here. And that, in part, is what makes this place an incredible place to be,” he said, encouraging the award ceremony’s attendees to buy all five of the finalists’ books—or get on the public library list for them, but “be ready to wait,” he warned.
“Go out and try to celebrate this city through literature. It’s a great way to connect with the town that we live in and, as I say, we need to do more of that.”