23. ilb 06. – 16.09.2023

André Alexis

Portrait André Alexis
© Hannah Zoe Davison

André Alexis was born in Port of Spain (Trinidad and Tobago) in 1957. His parents left Trinidad for Canada in the late 1950s, followed in 1961 by Alexis and his younger sister. He spent his childhood in Ottawa. Alexis began his artistic career in theater as playwright-in-residence at the Canadian Stage Company (CanStage).

His first drama »Lambton, Kent« was produced and preformed in 1995. The drama revolves around a Nigerian anthropologist and his observations of southern Ontario. Alexis was nominated for the Commonwealth Prize (Canada and the Caribbean region) for his first collection of short prose: »Despair, and Other Stories of Ottawa« (1994). The texts examine the depths of the human psyche, and also paint a surreal picture of the Canadian capital. In his debut novel »Childhood« (1998), Alexis tells the story of a middle-aged man who reflects on his childhood, stressing the inherent subjectivity of any retrospective. In an interview, Alexis described the influence of his origin on his writing: »… how to speak in Trinidad, the narrative rhythms, the repetitions, the simplicity of the language. […] My ideal is the simplicity and beauty of the fairy tale.« The novel was nominated for the Scotiabank Giller Prize. In »Asylum« (2008), Alexis uses ingenious satire to tell a story based in Ottawa at the time of Mulroney to explore intertwined lives and destinies, politics and vanities, the construction of a supposedly ideal prison, human fallibility, the search for refuge, love, and the home. »Pastoral« was published in 2014 and was the first of a planned series of five philosophical novels, followed by »Fifteen Dogs« (2015), »The Hidden Keys« (2016), and »Days by Moonlight« (2019). This fourth part of the series, which was awarded the Rogers Writers’ Trust Fiction Prize, tells of a botanist named Homer, who goes on a trip to southern Ontario with a professor of literature to collect material for a book about a mysterious poet, gaining healing abilities along the way.

In addition to his novels, Alexis also wrote the children’s book »Ingrid and the Wolf« (2005) and a series of libretti, among others for James Rolfesʼ opera »Aeneas and Dido« (2007), which premiered in the Masque Theater Toronto the year it was created. Alexis has received numerous awards, including the Windham-Campbell Literature Prize 2017. He currently resides in Toronto and works as a moderator for CBC Radio, writes as a literary critic for »The Globe and Mail«, and teaches English and creative writing at the university. He is a 2020 guest of the DAAD Artists-in-Berlin Program.