Andre Alexis, winner of the 2015 Scotiabank Giller Prize, visited Queen’s University on Tuesday to deliver a guest lecture and take part in a book signing. Mr. Alexis kept a packed audience at the Agnes Etherington Art Centre riveted as he discussed the inspiration for writing Fifteen Dogs, which included a local tie.
“I got the inspiration for writing Fifteen Dogs while I was taking care of 11 huskies in Sharbot Lake,” Mr. Alexis says. “The feeling of being with those dogs in that environment was an essential part of how I felt about the writing of the novel. My first novel was written at Sharbot Lake, and I knew nothing. I still feel that I know nothing, but now I am paid for what I know.”
In his prize-winning novel, 15 dogs in a veterinary clinic in Toronto are granted the gifts of reason and language by the Greek gods Hermes and Apollo. The novel follows the pack as they explore these fundamentally human abilities and the differing paths it places them on. Mr. Alexis said that the book, like his previous works, allows him to explore the concepts of God, love and power in different settings in an attempt to better understand all three.
“I had a set of concerns about love, about God and about power that you can see across the books I’ve written,” he says. “My work is a constant confrontation with my religious beliefs, maybe because in some ways I haven’t gotten over the loss of the belief I had when I was younger. This constant confrontation, which each of the five novels include, is either a way of saying goodbye to the notion of the divine or keeping it close so I don’t have to.”
Mr. Alexis’ visit was facilitated by the Department of English Language and Literature, which has hosted the recipient of the Giller Prize annually for nine years.