Scotiabank Giller Prize Spotlight: David Bergen

September 19, 2020

David Bergen’s short story collection, Here The Dark has been longlisted for the 2020 Scotiabank Giller Prize.

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. He won the Giller Prize for his novel The Time in Between. In 2018, he was given the Writers’ Trust Matt Cohen Award: In Celebration of a Writing Life.

What/who inspires you to write?

Recently, I was reading Days of Abandonment by Elena Ferrante, and at one point I was overcome by envy, for her ability to sharpen the knife and reveal the psyche of her characters in a few words. And immediately following the envy I experienced a rush of creativity and I sat down and began to write.

Where is your favourite place to write?

I used to rent an office downtown for a cheap price, and I wrote many novels and stories there. Then COVID hit, and I was slightly short of money, so I gave up my hovel. And now I write from home, where the laundry and dishes and fridge distract me. But I am learning to hive myself away and write.

What are you reading now?

If the novel is good, I tell my friends and family to read it. I get serious about converting readers to the books I like. I am in the midst of Richard Wright’s Native Son, a book I’ve had on my shelf for many years, and just now realized that it was time to dive into it. And it was time. A frightening book. Prescient. Sometimes didactic. Never untrue. Full of good faith that makes you question your own faith in humanity.

What is your favorite CanLit book?

A Fine Balance by Rohinton Mistry. Teeming with life and despair and hope.

What is your favourite book from childhood?

I read a lot of Zane Grey as a child. Recently, visiting my daughter in Montreal, I found Riders of the Purple Sage on the bookshelf and I read it quickly and recalled the feelings I had as a young reader, though I thought there was more sex, and what there is of it takes place behind the veil of purple prose and off stage. Still, it was a romp. Afraid to admit this but I wanted to be Zane Grey. And so at the age of twelve, I wrote purple prose, and my stories had buttes and cactuses and escarpments and mountain passes and, of course, horses.

What do you hope readers take away from your book?

I wrote the stories and the novella for enjoyment, for exploration of morality, to see where my characters would go and how they would act, and for the love of the sentence. I believe that the critical reader might discover one of those aspects in the collection.

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