Trillium Book Awards Author Reading 2015

CBC Canada Reads Interview Series: David Bergen

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David Bergen

Today we continue our CBC Canada Reads interview series with David Bergen, Giller Prize-winning writer and the author of Canada Reads contender The Age of Hope (HarperCollins Canada).

David tells us about pushing away the voices over his shoulder, meeting his Canada Reads defender, Ron McLean, and his sweet celebration plan should The Age of Hope emerge victorious.

Hosted by popular CBC personality and author Jian Ghomeshi, Canada Reads pits five fantastic Canadian books against one another in a (mostly) friendly competition, with each book championed by a Canadian celebrity in a series of broadcast debates. For more information about CBC Canada Reads, please visit their website. The 2013 debates run from February 11-14.

Stay tuned to Open Book: Toronto for interviews with the 2013 CBC Canada Reads writers and panellists this week and next.

Open Book:

Tell us about your book and when you wrote it.

David Bergen:

My novel The Age of Hope follows the life and times of Hope Koop from the year 1950 to 2001. Fifty-one years in the life of a woman who is quite ordinary on the surface, yet underneath she is a complex and divided woman who feels like an outsider both in her community and with herself. I wrote the novel in spring of 2011 right after attempting a dark and uncompromising novel that appeared to go nowhere. Hope’s story was more generous and open and in the end the novel wrote quickly.


What was most difficult about writing this book and what was most pleasurable?


I wondered at times if I was jumping into a pool that was empty. This was a woman’s story and I was tackling it as a male writer. But like all stories, I push away the voices that call over my shoulder, the ones that edit and reprimand, and I forge ahead. The most pleasurable part of this story was the ease of the voice and the awareness that there is nothing better than a novel that lands so nicely in one’s lap.


Tell us about the experience of meeting the panelist who will be defending your book.


I had never met Ron MacLean before. He was generous and warm and down to earth. But then he comes from the prairies. His choice surprised me, given that the novel is so very interior and from the viewpoint of a woman. He said that that Hope Koop was all of us, which is why he was drawn to the novel.


How would you describe the literary culture of the region your book is representing? Is there another book in addition to your own that you feel captures the spirit of the region?


I’m not sure there is a quest for a literary culture in the prairies. That said, the region has produced some amazing writers: Carol Shields, Miriam Toews, Margaret Laurence. The fact is these are all female writers, which might reflect the place as well, and the subtlety of the quest. A Complicated Kindness by Miriam Toews doesn’t pay homage to place or a region, in fact the main character Nomi Nickel is looking to escape her place. The texture of the prairies, the space, the loneliness, the melancholy, the entire emotional vernacular spills out, even as she considers running elsewhere.


If your book wins the competition, how will you celebrate?


The book is dedicated to Doris. If I win I’ll take her out for a nice dinner.

David Bergen is an award-winning author of six previous novels and a collection of short stories. A Year of Lesser was a New York Times Notable Book and The Case of Lena S. was a finalist for the Governor General’s Award for Fiction. In 2005, Bergen won the Giller Prize for The Time in Between. His sixth novel, The Matter with Morris, was shortlisted for the Giller Prize in 2010. A winner of the Writers’ Trust Award for a writer in mid-career, Bergen lives with his family in Winnipeg.

For more information about The Age of Hope please visit the HarperCollins Canada website.

Buy this book at your local independent bookstore or online at Chapters/Indigo or Amazon.

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