We are beyond excited that Here the Dark by David Bergen has been shortlisted for the 2020 Scotiabank Giller Prize! The finalists were announced this morning on a virtual live stream. Sean Michaels, the 2014 Giller Prize winner for the novel Us Conductors, announced David Bergen’s name.
This year’s 2020 Scotiabank Giller jury, comprised of David Chariandy, Eden Robinson, Mark Sakamoto, Claire Armitstead, and Tom Rachman, stated, “Sexual loneliness and moral confusion pull at the delicately wrought characters in David Bergen’s latest work, a story collection of masterly skill and tension. His third appearance on the Giller shortlist — including the 2005 winner, The Time in Between — affirms Bergen among Canada’s most powerful writers. His pages light up; all around falls into darkness.”
In a statement, publisher Dan Wells said, “We are delighted that David Bergen’s Here the Dark has made the 2020 Scotiabank Giller shortlist. Readers know David primarily as a novelist: these stories show he’s a master of shorter forms, stories and novella both, and we’re thrilled that more readers may discover them as a result of this nomination.”
The Scotiabank Giller Prize is one of Canada’s most prestigious literary awards. The prize was established in 1994 by Jack Rabinovitch in honour of his late wife, literary journalist Doris Giller, who passed away from cancer the year before. The prize is awarded annually to a Canadian novel or short story collection published that year. The winner receives $100,000 and the shortlisted authors each receive $10,000. The winner will be announced November 9, 2020 on a broadcast hosted by Canadian actor, Eric McCormack, featuring a performance by Canadian jazz pianist and singer, Diana Krall.
Previous winners of the Giller Prize include Alice Munro, Margaret Atwood, Esi Edugyan, Andre Alexis, Michael Ondaatje, and Mordecai Richler.
Here the Dark is one of two short story collections on the shortlist, the other being How to Pronounce Knife by Souvankham Thammavongsa. It is also one of three books published by independent presses on the shortlist— Ridgerunner by Gil Adamson (Anansi) and Polar Vortex by Shani Mootoo (Book*hug) are shortlisted as well. The fifth shortlisted title is The Glass Hotel by Emily St. John Mandel.
The short stories in Here the Dark explore the spaces between doubt and belief, evil and good, obscurity and light. They follow men and boys bewildered by their circumstances and swayed by desire, surprised by love and by their capacity for both tenderness and violence.
The title novella is about a young woman who rejects the laws of her cloistered Mennonite community, where she must adhere to rigid gender roles and not ask many questions. But she can’t stop asking questions and reading books and being curious about her cousin’s life at university. The story is told with compassion and insight, with a great understanding of the complexity of the characters’ situation.
It’s a collection that isn’t afraid to ask difficult questions, display the contradictions within people and ask us to sit with them. Bergen has said he is not interested in easy answers to difficult questions. He portrays characters bewildered by circumstances and invites us to empathize with them.
Here the Dark deftly renders complex moral ambiguities and asks what it means to be lost—and how we might be found.
Bergen won the Giller Prize in 2005 for his novel The Time in Between and he was shortlisted in 2010 for The Matter with Morris. In total, Bergen has been nominated for the Giller five times. Here the Dark is his first title published with Biblioasis.
David Bergen has published eight novels and a collection of short stories. His work has been nominated for the Governor General’s Literary Award, the Impac Dublin Literary Award, and a Pushcart Prize. In 2018 he was given the Writers’ Trust Matt Cohen Award: In Celebration of a Writing Life.