The Trillium goes to York alum Nino Ricci

Nino Ricci won it, David Tsubouchi presented it and Christian Bök helped judge it. We’re talking about the $20,000 Trillium Book Award, announced April 23 at a gala Toronto event top heavy with York University alumni.

Left, Nino Ricci; right, Christian Bök

All three have English degrees from York. Ricci, who graduated with a BA in 1981, won Ontario’s top literary prize for Testament, a novel that follows the life of Christ. Bök, who graduated with a PhD in 1998 and teaches here, was on the three-person jury that chose Ricci’s book. And Tsubouchi, who earned a BA in 1972 and an Osgoode Hall law degree in 1975, presented the prize as Ontario’s Culture Minister.

Left, David Tsubouchi

Ricci shared this year’s Trillium for English-language fiction with Austin Clarke, author of The Polished Hoe. Of the seven finalists for the prize, two others had York connections. Michael Ondaatje, who teaches English at York’s Glendon College, was nominated for The Conversations: Walter Murch and the Art of Editing Film, and Steve McCaffery, an English professor in the Faculty of Arts, was up for Seven Pages Missing (volume 2).

Ricci has won many literary awards, including the Governor General’s Award for fiction in 1990 for his first novel Lives of the Saints.

Of Testament, the jury citation said: Nino Ricci has created a work of sustained and overwhelming beauty. A spellbinding and richly detailed historical novel, Testament unfolds through four narrative voices, each delineated and finely woven, each overlapping and yet moving forward with tidal intent, in a synthesis that is masterfully achieved.”

Bök is also a literary award winner. His book Eunoia, the avant-garde bestseller, won the Griffin Prize for Poetic Excellence in 2002.