25th Trillium Award

Trillium Testimonial: Andrew J. Borkowski

Share |

This year marks the 25th Anniversary of Ontario's illustrious Trillium Book Award/Prix Trillium. To celebrate this silver milestone, Open Book has asked members of the literary community to tell us what they love about their favourite award-winning Trillium title. If you're looking for a recommended read (or re-read), follow these Trillium Testimonials on Open Book: Ontario from now until the winners of the 2012 award competition are announced. Today, author Andrew J. Borkowski tells us why he's chosen Michael Ondaatje’s In the Skin of a Lion (Random House Canada), winner of the 1987 Trillium Book Award.

Andrew will appear as a featured reader at the Virus Reading Series in St. Catharines on March 15, 2012.

Open Book:

What do you love about this book?

Andrew J. Borkowski:

In the Skin of a Lion was like no Canadian novel I’d ever read. I’d fallen under the sway of Borges, Calvino and Marquez. I struggled to build some of their colour, humour and breadth of vision in my own work and wondered why my betters on the CanLit scene hadn’t done so. Here was the book I’d been looking for—brazenly poetic and daring in its structure, baffling the reader into experiencing narrative in a new way. As ghost crabs skittered across the sand into the Indian Ocean and Vervet Monkeys swung in the trees over my head, Ondaatje’s imagery—a nun swept off the Bloor viaduct, mules and men tunneling under Lake Ontario, horses leaping from towers into the water at Kew beach—made Hogtown seem as exotic as Mombassa or Mumbai. The novel’s cast of thieves, visionaries and vanishing impressarios taught me that home still had plenty of potential to amaze.


When did you first read it?


I first read In the Skin of a Lion on a beach in Kenya, in December 1988. I had picked it up in England, after reading a review in Time Out. Our trip to Africa was a reward for my wife, who’d been working hard over the previous two years, while I wrote and lived the bohemian life in the English countryside north of Birmingham. It was a “last hurrah” of sorts. After our return to London, we’d be heading home to Toronto, where we planned to start a family, save for a house and where I would finally have to settle down to earning something resembling a living. I was experiencing more than a little trepidation about our return to a city I felt had grown sick on money and megaprojects and an obsession with “world classness” that usually involved pandering to developers and aping the latest fashion in New York.

Andrew J. Borkowski wrote about Toronto in his 2011 collection of short stories Copernicus Avenue (Cormorant Books), which finished fourth in the CBC’s Giller Prize Readers’ Choice competition. His current project is The Frenzy of Mad Sweeney, a novel inspired by his time in England. He lives two blocks from where In the Skin of a Lion was written and where much of its action takes place, in Toronto’s East End.

You could be reading your top Trillium titles on a new Kobo eReader! Click here for details on our Trillium 25th Anniversary Contest.

Post new comment

  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.
  • Allowed HTML tags: <a> <em> <strong> <cite> <code> <ul> <ol> <li> <dl> <dt> <dd>
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.

More information about formatting options

By submitting this form, you accept the Mollom privacy policy.

Advanced Search