50th Anniversary Signature Event
Anne Michaels - President's Distinguished Lecture and Special Convocation
Monday, February 18, 2013 | 7:00 pm | University Centre Farquhar Auditorium
"The Mystery of Wood"
Anne Michaels is a powerful and provocative storyteller, poet and composer who is widely admired for her grace, intelligence and integrity. Her award-winning works offer a complex and sustained meditation on the nature of love and evil.
In this President’s Distinguished Lecture, Anne Michaels framed her talk with a quote from Fugitive Pieces (1996): “the mystery of wood is not that it burns, but that it floats.” Michaels’s lecture focused on the responsibilities of fiction when it is deeply engaged with historical events. She probed a persistent theme in her work captured in her reflection that “there is nothing a man will not do to another, nothing a man will not do for another,” and examined questions of faith and failure from a writer’s point of view.
As part of its 50th anniversary celebrations, UVic is conferring Honorary Degrees on three eminent scholars in a series of Special Convocations. Anne Michaels received the degree of Honorary Doctor of Fine Arts prior to her President’s Distinguished Lecture.
In honour of Anne Michaels's visit to UVic, Cinecenta screened the film adaptation, Fugitive Pieces (2007) directed by Jeremy Podeswa, of Michaels' same titled novel.
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View Anne Michaels's Special Convocation video
View Anne Michaels's President's Distinguished Lecture video
See event highlights below
Anne Michaels's Biographical Notes
Anne Michaels's Biographical Notes
Anne Michaels is a celebrated Canadian author, poet and composer whose powerful and provocative work has garnered national and international acclaim. Her debut novel Fugitive Pieces (1996) catapulted her name into bookshops worldwide. The novel, described as a lyrical, profound story, examines the Holocaust’s impact on the lives of two protagonists and their families. A bestseller, the rights to Fugitive Pieces were sold in 40 countries and in 2007 it was made into a feature film directed by Jeremy Podeswa. The book earned scores of Canadian and international awards including the Trillium Book Award (Canada), the Orange Prize for Fiction (U.K.) and the Lannan Literary Award for Fiction (U.S.).
As a poet, Michaels has made an impressive impact on the literary scene. Her first collection of poetry, The Weight of Oranges (1986), received the Commonwealth Prize. Her second collection, entitled Miner’s Pond (1991), won the National Magazine Award, the Canadian Authors Association Award for Poetry and was shortlisted for the Governor General’s Award. Her third book of poetry, Skin Divers (1996), was found by Quill and Quire to be a “belief in the redemptive quality of language to transform—even radically alter—experience.” In 2005 Michaels worked with commentator John Berger to co-write the British theatre project, Vanishing Points—a “meditation on memory and history,” directed by Simon McBurney.
Michaels’s second novel, The Winter Vault (2009), concerns the consequences of three events, the reconstruction of the Abu Simbel temple, the building of Canada’s St. Lawrence Seaway and the destruction and restoration of Warsaw. The novel was a finalist for the 2009 Scotiabank Giller Prize and a 2010 finalist for both the Commonwealth Writers Prize for Best Book and the Trillium Book Award. It was also nominated for the 2011 IMPAC Dublin Literary Award.
Michaels is a supreme literary artist and one of the era’s finest lyrical thinkers. She offers her readers an empowering message on the individual’s role in historical events and says, “we forget the power of the small act of love. . . . Often, we feel hopeless in the face of history, in the face of economics, in the face of these large forces, but really the small individual act can be incredibly powerful.”
Anne Michaels holds a BA in English (Hons, 1980) from the University of Toronto and an Honorary Doctor of Literature from Carleton University. She has served as an Adjunct Professor in Creative Writing at the University of Toronto since 1988.