How Could I Have Missed It?

Ernest Hemingway wrote:

“It is awfully easy to be hard-boiled about everything in the daytime, but at night is another thing.”

Do you ever wonder how different your perception of things is between day and night? Do you notice how when you look outside your window at night at your surroundings, and see the lights on in your neighbor’s house, you realize that yet another day has passed? And you have the feeling that you have been through all of this before, that everything is just being repeated, day in, day out. Except for last night.


Last night I watched the Scotiabank Giller Prize live on TV. I first learned about the Scotiabank Giller Prize in October 2006 when we first moved to Montreal. I was born and raised in Lebanon and lived much of my life in Dubai. And as such I had never heard about the Giller Prize. I had never heard of Mordecai Richler, or Jack Rabinovitch, or the late Dorris Giller in whose honor the Giller prize was created.

In fact we didn’t hear much about Canada back then (in Dubai). People wrote stories in the local newspapers relating their accounts of the hardships they faced after immigrating to Canada. The fact that they could not find a job or were not found qualified to work in their field of profession and had to return to Dubai. And as my then nine year old son put it, “All I know about Canada is that it is this cold place in the North.”

Neither the Gulf News nor the Khaleej Times, the two English daily newspapers in Dubai, had written anything about this literary event. Nor had I read about the prestigious prize in the writing magazines that I subscribed to, like the Writer’s Digest or Writer’s News. The only Canadian writers I had heard of were Michael Ondaatje (mainly for ‘The English Patient’), Margaret Atwood, Alice Munroe, M.G. Vassanji. I was a huge fan of BBC’s Face to Face and Hard Talk with Tim Sebastian and I watched Margaret Atwood’s first interview with Tim a long time ago.

Something this significant and big – how could I have missed it all these years?

Last night I watched live on CBC the awards ceremony in awe. To find all these literary figures, to see all these fine writers and many more under one roof. To hear them talk about their books, about how they write, when they write, why they write. The whole ceremony was pure magic for me. Every time the camera focused on the audience I tried to look for a writer I could recognize. It was by far the best literary event that I had watched live. It takes a pure genius to create such an event and keep it going year after year. And as Maya Angelou wrote,

“I have learned that every day you should reach out and touch someone. I’ve learned that no matter what happens, or how bad it seems today, life does go on, and it will be better tomorrow.”

Thank you Mr. Jack Rabinovitch for creating something so wonderful, so great and magical, and specially for touching the lives of so many including mine. How can life even though painful sometimes not be beautiful?


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