André Alexis, one of Canada’s premier playwrights and novelists, is now recognized for the scope of his bibliography as the winner of the 2017 Windham-Campbell Prize. This coveted American literary prize, known for awarding one of the richest literary prize amounts in the world, recognizes Alexis’ entire body of diverse creative works. Alexis was born in Port of Spain, Trinidad and Tobago, in 1957 and immigrated with his sister to Canada in 1961, eventually settling in Ottawa. He began his literary career in theater in the early 1990s and was playwright-in-residence at the Canadian Stage Company.
Though his work is mostly inspired by his agnosticism and different schools of philosophy, Alexis’ multicultural heritage gives him a unique outlook on writing in Canada. His first book, Despair, and Other Stories of Ottawa, was shortlisted for the Commonwealth Prize (Canada and Caribbean region) in 1994. Alexis’ debut novel, Childhood, won the Books in Canada First Novel Award in 1997. This work, set as a “fictional autobiography,” explores the balance between knowledge and love with a Canadian protagonist who wants to learn more about his Trinidadian heritage. Alexis published books throughout the early 2000s, including the 2005 children’s book, Ingrid and the Wolf.
In 2014, Alexis began the ambitious project of a “quincunx” of philosophical works that will examine “faith, place, love, power and hatred.” The first novel, Pastoral, is a fresh take on the idyllic classic genre while infusing modern ideas of Canada’s literary landscape. The second book in this five-book series, Fifteen Dogs (2015), was an immediate success. The book is a masterclass of perspective and what it means to have a human consciousness. This complex book won Alexis many accolades, including the 2015 Rogers Writers’ Trust Fiction Prize and the 2017 edition of the Canada Reads “battle of the books.”
As a celebrated member of the Canadian literary world, Alexis was selected as a juror for the 2017 Scotiabank Giller Prize. He previously won this prize in 2015 for Fifteen Dogs. He keeps busy at home in Toronto by hosting programs for CBC Radio and reviewing books for The Globe and Mail.