Alain Farah wins Governor General’s Literary Prize for French fiction

Département des littératures de langue française professor recognized for his latest novel, Mille secrets mille dangers, published in September 2021.

McGill professor Alain Farah is amongst this year’s winners of the prestigious Governor General’s Literary Awards for his latest novel, Mille secrets mille dangers, published by Québec-based publishing house Le Quartanier in September 2021. The annual awards recognize the best of Canadian books published in English and in French.

Prof. Alain Farah is the 2022 winner of the Governor General’s Award for French fiction. Photo: Justine Latour and Le Quartanier

Mille secrets mille dangers is an autobiographical fictional account of Alain Farah’s wedding day, interweaving stories of family, exile, friendship and grief. Punctuated by flashbacks and bursts of prenuptial anxiety, Farah immerses readers in an all too familiar setting of Montreal in the blistering July heat, and invites us to view the often comedic and pathos-tinged story of a Québec family grappling with the question of cultural belonging.

Since 2009, Alain Farah has been teaching creative writing and contemporary French-language fiction at the Département des littératures de langue française, de traduction et de creation.

“Teaching literature and creative writing means being in constant dialogue with tradition,” says Farah. “Through the strength of their work, many of the recipients of the Governor General’s literary prize taught me the importance of patience and perseverance, and the urgency to find, despite pitfalls, pleasure in the act of writing. Perhaps this will make me feel more entitled to encourage my students to go in search of this sense of joy that comes from surpassing our own expectations.”

In the words of the peer assessment committee, Farah’s novel is “supported by elegant and masterful narration, [ it] is a tragicomic fresco where the art of storytelling is a source of great reading pleasure. It is a Fellinian gallery of characters as colourful as they are endearing, where self-mockery goes hand in hand with hypochondria. A moving novel that transcends the limits of autobiographical fiction.” (Katia Belkhodja, Emmanuel Kattan and Alain Bernard Marchand)

This is Farah’s second nomination for the Governor General’s Literary Prize; his novel Pourquoi Bologne, translated into English by Lazer Lederhendler in 2015, was also nominated in the “romans” category for the 2014 Governor General’s Literary Prize.

Professor Farah was recently interviewed by the Faculty of Arts’ Communication Division about the success of his book and the literary influences that shaped its creation. Read the interview in French here.