Monday, November 28, 2011

History of the Governor General's Awards


During her tenure as governor general, Adrienne Clarkson became aware that Rideau Hall did not even have copies of the books that had received Governor General's Literary Awards over the years -- not even, presumably, her husband's book.  She initiated a search that must have been quite a remarkable exercise in bookfinding.  Today visitors to Rideau Hall can visit a smallish room just off the main reception rooms that hold a complete collection or something close to it of books that have received the Governor General's Literary Award since their foundation in 1936 -- seventy-five years ago.

I had the chance the other day to browse those shelves.  There is a fair amount of work that is not remembered and some that may not be terrifically memorable.  But all along those shelves, one spots names that adorn the canon, indeed that form the canon.

Among the historians, for instance:  the shelves include works by A.R.M. Lower, C.P. Stacey, W.L. Morton, Donald Creighton, J.M.S. Careless, Frank Underhill, Marcel Trudel, Robert-Louis S├ęguin, Louise Dechene, Carl Berger, Fernand Ouellet, Ramsay Cook, Gerard Bouchard, and Margaret MacMillan, as well as Thomas Raddall, Josephine Phelan, Marjorie Wilkins Campbell, Pierre Berton, Sandra Gwyn, Maggie Siggins and Karolyn Smardz Frost  (curious, is it, how women are much better represented among the non-academic historians than among the profs?).  Fiction, poetry, whatever category you pick is as studded with distinguished names.  It's quite a room.

The top photo is of a part of the shelving that includes books of the year 1982, which is of special significance to me. The lower one is part of the room itself.  The exhibit is supposedly temporary, but it looks built to last.
 
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