Mount Forest author shortlisted for Scotiabank Giller Prize

A Wellington County author is up for a prestigious literary prize.

André Forget, who grew up in Mount Forest, is one of 14 authors shortlisted for the Scotiabank Giller Prize. The announcement was made on September 6 and the shortlist is expected to be released on September 27.

The novel that made the list is called In the city of pigs. Forget, who has been writing since 2010, said it was his first published fiction novel and his first novel. He learned the news of his appointment at the same time as everyone else.

“It was unexpected,” Forget said. “I was watching the ad live and hadn’t been contacted before so I assumed that meant I wasn’t on the list but then they read my name and I got a mini heart attack.”

The Forget website said In the city of pigs focuses on classical music, Toronto real estate, modernity and the difficulty of creating art under the conditions of late capitalism. The book follows the main character, Alexander Otkazov, a failed artist from Montreal who moves to Toronto to become a journalist and discovers an ambitious experimental music collective.

The novel was built from a short story Forget wrote for an organist and composer friend, named Joel Peters, in 2017.

“He started this collaborative arts group and the idea was to bring classical music together with literature and other fine arts, and he had asked me to write a short story about an underwater organ, and that’s the prop he gave me,” Forget said. about Peters. “So I wrote a story, and I sent it to him, he liked it so we did a concert around the idea of ​​these underwater organs. The concert was in 2018, and a lot of people l liked it and many people attended, and people seemed to think the underwater organs were real.

“As a writer, when you get that kind of feedback, you realize you’re doing something right if I bring that idea to life enough.”

Forget said they held a few more concerts and reported on other art events before they started writing the novel. Forget, who has written for outlets like Morse and The Globe and Mailsaid the writers incorporate real-life experiences.

“I don’t know what it’s like to wake up in the morning to be a banker, or an accountant, or a politician, do I? But I know what it’s like to work in a newspaper,” said declared Forget. “I gravitate to these things because to me they have a lot of texture and I can write about them in a way that feels real to me.”

While he was comfortable writing about the experiences of being a journalist and living in Toronto, Forget said he consulted with different classical music professionals and read classical music books to talk about it. In the novel. Forget estimates that he spent two years acquiring basic knowledge of classical music.

“I had to do a huge amount of research for the musical side, to be able to talk about the side of classical music where someone could see their reality in that, and I hope I did.”

While the main character spends time in Toronto, Forget said anyone from southern Ontario would know he’s from Guelph.

“My character doesn’t really spend time there, but in my mind he came from there,” Forget said.

Forget now lives in Sheffield, England, but remembers growing up in Mount Forest as a child who was always writing stories. Forget credits two teachers at Wellington Heights High School with shaping his writing skills; Kim Stewart and Barbara Illingworth.

“She was just one of those people who knew how to make music exciting and how to make English exciting,” Forget said of Stewart. “My ability to understand music and music theory goes back to his class, which I didn’t do very well in, but something got stuck.”

Coming from rural Ontario, Forget said he thinks there’s kind of a presumption that a place like Mount Forest doesn’t produce artists, which can be hard to overcome.

“I managed to overcome it because luckily my parents were really supportive because they always believed that art really mattered,” Forget said, “but I think about the situations in which there are many people in Ontario, especially people of color or queer. artists, and I am thinking of the amplification of the challenges faced by these mediums, in particular in terms of the ability to make their work known, to be recognized, to be celebrated and, above all, to earn a living. make a living, then you don’t have time to create art.”

Forget said the novel would not have been possible without the help of other people. While honored to be on the Scotiabank Giller Prize long list, he said what matters for artists and in writing is that you do a good job and people can relate to it. connect.

“Awards are good, recognition is good, but the end goal of any artist is to connect with other people through their work, so you keep your eye on that award rather than the prize in silver,” Forget said.

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