Gary Barwin


Gary Barwin is a writer, composer, and multidisciplinary artist and the author of twenty-one books of poetry, fiction and books for children. His latest book is the poetry collection No TV for Woodpeckers (Wolsak & Wynn). His bestselling debut novel for adults, Yiddish for Pirates (Random House Canada), won the Stephen Leacock Medal for Humour as well as the Canadian Jewish Literary Award (FIction) and the Hamilton Literary Award (Fiction). It was also a finalist for both the Governor General’s Award for Fiction and the Scotiabank Giller Prize. His interactive writing installation using old typewriters and guitar processors was featured during 2016-2017 at the Art Gallery of Hamilton. Forthcoming books include, A Cemetery for Holes, a poetry collaboration with Tom Prime (Gordon Hill Press, 2019) and For It is a Pleasure and a Surprise to Breathe: New and Selected Poems, ed. Alessandro Porco (Wolsak and Wynn, 2019.)

A finalist for the National Magazine Awards (Poetry), he is a three-time recipient of Hamilton Poetry Book of the Year, has also received the Hamilton Arts Award for Literature and has co-won the bpNichol Chapbook Award and the K.M. Hunter Arts Award. He was one of the judges for the 2017 CBC Poetry Prize.

With a PhD in music composition, Barwin has been Writer-in-Residence at Western University, McMaster University and the Hamilton Public Library, Hillfield Strathallan College, and Young Voices E-Writer-in-Residence at the Toronto Public Library. He will be Edna Staebler writer-in-residence at Wilfrid Laurier University in Winter 2019. He has taught creative writing at a number of colleges and universities and currently teaches writing to at-risk youth in Hamilton through the ArtForms program. His writing has been published in hundreds of magazine and journals internationally—from Readers Digest to Granta and Poetry to the Walrus—and his writing, music, media works and visuals have been presented and broadcast internationally. Though born in Northern Ireland to South African parents of Ashenazi descent, Barwin lives in Hamilton, Ontario. He is married with three adult children and lives in Hamilton, Ontario and has never been Governor of Louisiana.

More information about Gary Barwin can be found at his website: garybarwin.com

Yiddish for Pirates (Random House Canada 2016, New Face of Fiction)

WINNER:

Stephen Leacock Award for Humour


FINALIST: 

2016 Scotiabank Giller Prize

2016 Governor General’s Award for Literature

The Press:

“Across time and across continents, Gary Barwin’s novel “parrots” in an altogether new way. In a ferment of salty witticism, parroty puns and unforgettable Yiddish vocabulary, this is a novel borne not just on the wings of its feathery narrator, but on its own jubilant and alluring language; its own voice. Playful, mocking, using history with audacious abandon, Yiddish for Pirates is a resplendent enjoyment. But, literally viewed from above, the novel also admonishes us about man’s inexhaustible zeal for butchery, for incessant genocide, and for affliction. We have had animal narrators throughout literary history, but Aaron the African grey parrot, from the shoulder of his pirate master, will lift you to new heights.” – 2016 Scotiabank Giller Prize Jury Citation

 

“[Yiddish for Pirates is] simply not like anything else. . . . [In Yiddish for Pirates] Barwin strikes a moving, masterful note. Yiddish for Pirates has an unmatched spryness in both thought and language. It doesn’t conform well to any category or trope of literature, but instead makes a place as a fresh, new thing that draws from sea shanties and Talmud, history and fantasy, romance, adventure, linguistics, fashion, and the adventure serial of the early days of movies. This book is as irrepressible as my enthusiasm for it. You’ll never read anything else like it, and that’s a shonde.” – S. Bear Bergman, The Globe and Mail

 

“Gary Barwin’s new novel combines swashbuckling and stories of the diaspora, told with some of the most original language play since Ulysses.” – Joyland

Rarely does one encounter a work of Canadian literature this exuberant, impassioned, and enthralled with the very nature and essence of storytelling. Yiddish for Pirates is many things: a postmodern pastiche, an episodic picaresque, a compendium of tales competing to see which can stand tallest, and a virtual catalogue of Jewish humour through the ages.” – Steven W. Beattie, Quill & Quire

“Delightfully odd. . . . Start by imagining that Leo Rosten (of The Joys of Yiddish) and Terry Pratchett (of approximately 1 million fantasy novels) had a love-child. Then suspend your disbelief’s disbelief. . . . Barwin engages with the little-known history of Jewish pirates with verve and humor.” – Leah Falk, Jewniverse

“All my life I have been waiting for the romantic tale of a Kabbalistic Jewish pirate as filtered through a uniquely Canadian perspective. Today, my prayers have been answered and then some.” Gary Shteyngart, author of Little Failure

Yiddish for Pirates is a rollicking story, a linguistic typhoon, and the most audacious and original novel I’ve read in a long time. Gary Barwin has the imagination of David Mitchell and a galleon full of dictionaries.” Emily Schultz, author of The Blondes

“Gary Barwin is a gifted writer and a whiz-bang storyteller. Both are on vivid display in his hilarious tragicomic epic, Yiddish for Pirates. Narrated by a five-hundred-year-old wisecracking parrot, naturally, this swashbuckling tale had me hanging on for dear life. A wild and wonderful ride.” Terry Fallis, author of Poles Apart and No Relation

“What an accomplishment! What an imagination! The wit, the wordplay, and the subversive humour make this a thoroughly original and delightful novel.”  Lauren B. Davis, Scotiabank Giller Prize–nominated author of Our Daily Bread and Against a Darkening Sky