Black Moss Press and writer André Narbonne get their first nod to Giller

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André Narbonne’s instincts were right. It was a good time to sit down.

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The Windsor author was stunned this week to learn that his debut novel, Lucien & Olivia, has earned a spot on the annual Scotiabank Giller Prize longlist.

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To make the moment even sweeter, this was Giller’s first appointment for his publisher, Windsor’s Black Moss Press, since its inception in 1969.

“It’s very, very exciting,” Narbonne said. “They’re doing a TV ad and I’ve been waiting for that. I thought I better sit down in case my name comes up. And that was a good thing. It would have floored me.

The Scotiabank Giller Prize awards $100,000 annually to the author of the best Canadian novel, graphic novel or collection of short stories published in English. Each of the finalists receives $10,000.

The 2022 long list of Canada’s biggest literature prize was announced on Tuesday. The judges took 138 submissions from across Canada and narrowed the number of titles down to 14, including Narbonne’s novel.

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Local writer, Andre Narbonne, pictured on the Windsor seafront on Wednesday September 7, 2022, has long been on the Scotiabank Giller Prize shortlist.
Local writer, Andre Narbonne, pictured on the Windsor seafront on Wednesday September 7, 2022, has long been on the Scotiabank Giller Prize shortlist. Photo by Dax Melmer /Windsor Star

It is the only work by an Essex County author or publisher to make this year’s list. Black Moss also published Narbonne’s first book, a collection of short stories titled Twelve Miles to Midnight.

“The Giller’s prestigious nomination brings great honor and attention to a small press with a reputation for featuring premier books by southwestern Ontario authors,” said Marty Gervais, publisher of Black Moss. “It shines a light on what we’ve been doing for 50 years, promoting and believing in Windsor writers.”

Gervais said one of the things that makes Lucien and Olivia so compelling is that Narbonne weaves personal experiences into its story of a marine engineer on leave in Halifax.

“He’s not the stereotypical academic writer who sits down and writes a novel,” Gervais said. “He lived the experience of being in the Merchant Navy and he has some wonderful stories about it. I think what makes this book so good is that it’s a lot more down to earth. is funny. It’s true. The experience of being at sea and going to ports is his experience. It comes from real life and that’s what sets this book apart from many others. .

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Narbonne’s first career, for most of the 1980s, was as a marine engineer.

“This novel is about that,” said Narbonne, who teaches several courses at the University of Windsor. “It’s about what it means to navigate at a specific time.”

The novel is set in the 1980s, a time before the widespread use of cell phones and the internet.
“It was really the last generation of sailors who kind of had a foothold in the 19th century, in a way because of its isolation,” Narbonne said. “Yet that was in the modern world.”

  1. Local authors, Andre Narbonne, left, with his novel Lucien & Olivia, and Peter Hrastovec, with his book of poems, There Will Be Fish, are pictured at the joint book launch at the Windsor Club, Wednesday April 27, 2022.

    Black Moss Press celebrates the launch of two books by Windsor authors

  2. Marty Gervais, journalist, poet, playwright, historian, photographer and publisher, celebrates 50 years of Black Moss Press with his wife Donna.

    Windsor’s Black Moss Press celebrates 50 years of publishing

It is also a love story. While on vacation, Lucien meets philosophy student Olivia, who immediately hates him. But the mutual antipathy begins to change when they discover “how compatible their quirks are”.

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“The main theme of the novel is that we can only value ourselves if we can find value in others,” Narbonne said. “That’s what the two lovers do. They manage to value each other. And they’re two lovers who really should cancel each other out at different times, but they stick with it. They stay the course.

Giller’s shortlist will be announced on September 27. The winner will be revealed on November 7.

“I’ve always thought that as a writer it was important to be read by strangers and recognized by strangers, and here it is,” Narbonne said. “And I’m in it with such great authors.”

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