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Neil Bissoondath

Neil Bissoondath was born in Trinidad.  He came to Canada in 1973 to study French at York University in Toronto.  He subsequently taught both English and French. He has written and hosted a documentary on fathers and sons and hosted a television program called Markings.  Bissoondath lives in Quebec City. He was awarded an honorary Doctor of Letters at the June 1999 convocation at Glendon College, York University, and another honorary doctorate in May 2008 from the Université de Moncton. He was named a Chevalier of the Ordre national du Québec in 2010, and awarded the NALIS (National Library of Trinidad and Tobago) Lifetime Literary Achievement Award in 2012.


A Casual Brutality

Toronto: Cormorant, 2002. (1st trade pbk. ed.)
PS8553.I8775 C37 1988

Publisher’s Synopsis (from the Penguin Books ed., 1989)

A Casual Brutality is a powerful, dark novel about the failure of a decent man to come to terms with the moral disintegration of the Caribbean island of his birth. In this landmark literary achievement, Neil Bissoondath takes the reader into a world in which the future looks only toward a brutal past. In such a world, to what or to whom does a man owe his loyalty?

Awards and Honours

1988 Books in Canada First Novel Award (Nominated)

Fiction (Short stories)

Digging up the Mountains: Selected Stories

Toronto: Macmillan of Canada, 1986.
PS8553.I8775 D5 1986

Publisher’s Synopsis

Focussing on contemporary themes of cultural dislocation, revolution, and the shifting politics of the Third World, Neil Bissoondath weaves compelling stories about West Indians in their strife-torn islands, West Indian and other immigrants in Canada, and the victims of violence in nameless, fragile countries around the world.


Doing the Heart Good

Toronto: Cormorant, 2002.
PS8553.I8775 D65 2002

Publisher’s Synopsis

The beginning of Neil Bissoondath’s Doing the Heart Good marks the end of a seventy-year-old man’s independent life.  Alistair Mackenzie — widower, father, grandfather, retired professor, lover of Dickens and good sherry — is forced to move in with his daughter and her family, bringing with him only a few medals, pyjamas that still bear the smell of smoke, and memory — that territory, alien and untrustworthy,
unfailingly inhabited by a familiar stranger.

Awards and Honours

2002 Hugh MacLennan Award for Fiction (Quebec Writers Federation)(Winner)


The Innocence of Age

Toronto: Knopf Canada, 1992.
PS8553.I8775 I56 1992

Publisher’s Synopsis (Penguin Books, 1993)

Pasco and his son Daniel live in the same city but in different worlds. Pasco, the owner of a greasy spoon, has old-fashioned standards, while Daniel, a fledgling business tycoon, hungrily pursues a life of wealth, fleeting sexual encounters and quick gratification. Neither is prepared, however, to give up on the other.

Awards and Honours

1993 Canadian Authors Association Award for Fiction (Winner)


On the Eve of Uncertain Tomorrows

Toronto: Penguin Books, 1991.
PS8553.I8775 O5 1991

Publisher’s Synopsis


The Soul of all Great Designs

Toronto: Cormorant Books, 2008.
PS8553 .I8775 S69 2008

Publisher’s Synopsis

“Alec” is a man who is convinced early on in his professional career that the only way he can achieve success is to fabricate an identity for himself,…
“Sue” is a young woman who, forced to balance her Indian immigrant parents’ strict traditions and the subtler bu equally demanding rules of Canadian society, must hide aspects of herself from both worlds.
When Alec and Sue meet, their chance encounter quickly leads to a passionate affair stoked by the thrill of secrecy. But their initial excitement is not to last. …


The Unyielding Clamour of the Night

Toronto: Cormorant Books, 2005.
PS8553 .I8775 U69 2005

Publisher’s Synopsis

On an island nation where geography and education separate the advantaged from the disadvantaged, a young man of privilege leaves his home in the north to teach the children of the south. Arun, raised in a family made wealthy from its printing business, believes that he can make a profound difference by educating the children of subsistence farmers and cottage industries, caught in teh battlegrounds of an undeclared civil war.

Awards and Honours

2005 Hugh MacLennan Prize for Fiction — Quebec Writers’ Federation (Winner)

2006 Quebec Writers’ Federation Award for Translation, English to French — awarded to Lori Saint-Martin and Paul Gagné for La clameur des ténèbres.


The Worlds Within Her: A Novel

Toronto: A.A. Knopf Canada, 1998.

Toronto: Vintage Canada, 1999.

London: Heinemann, 2000.

London: Vintage, 2001.

Publisher’s Synopsis (from the Vintage Canada edition, 1999)

This beautiful novel, …, fuses politics and love in a powerful story set in both the Caribbean and Canada. With a startling grace of language, Neil Bissoondath draws us into the lives of a mother and daughter whose worlds and dreams collide to release deeply buried secrets.

Awards and Honours

1999 Governor General’s Literary Award–English Fiction (Nominated)

1999 Hugh MacLennan Award for Fiction (Quebec Society for the Promotion of the English Language, now QWF)(Finalist)

Anthology (Political Satire)

Bissoondath, Neil. “Come, Said the Eagle.” In The Ark in the Garden: Fables for Our Time, Collected by Alberto Manguel. Toronto: Macfarlane Walter & Ross, 1998, [24]-33.

PZ8.2 .A74 A74 1998


The Age of Confession

Fredericton, N.B.: Goose Lane, 2007.
PN3383 .N35 B57 2007


Selling Illusions: The Cult of Multiculturalism in Canada

Toronto: Penguin, 1994.
FC105.M8 B5 1994

Rev. and updated edition.
Toronto: Penguin, 2002.
FC105.M8 B5 2002

Publisher’s Synopsis (1st ed.)

… Bissoondath has consistently refused the role of ethnic, and sought to avoid the burden of hyphenation — a burden that would label him as East Indian-Trinidadian-Canadian living in Quebec. Bissoondath argues that the policy of multiculturalism, with its emphasis on the former or ancestral homeland and its insistence that There is more important than Here, discourages the full loyalty of Canada’s citizens.

Awards and Honours

1994 Gordon Montador Award for non-fiction (Winner)

Selected Criticism and Interpretation

Birbalsingh, Frank. Neil Bissoondath: Indo-Caribbean-Canadian Diaspora. Jaipur: Rawat Publications, 2005.

PS8553 .I8775 Z35 2005

Genetsch, Martin. The Texture of Identity: The Fiction of MG Vassanji, Neil Bissoondath, and Rohinton Mistry. Toronto: TSAR, 2008.

PS8089.5 .S68 G45 2007

Huggan, Graham. “Exoticism, ethnicity and the multicultural fallacy.” Ch. 5 in his The Postcolonial Exotic: Marketing the Margins. London: Routledge, 2001.

PR120.M55 H84 2001

Kandiuk, Mary. “Neil Bissoondath.” In Caribbean and South Asian Writers in Canada: A Bibliography of Their Works and of English-language Criticism. Lanham: Scarecrow Press, 2007, 12-18.

PS8089.5 .C37 K36 2007

Mukherjee, Arun. “‘Digging Up the Mountains’: Bissoondath’s Doomed World.” In Oppositional Aesthetics: Readings from a Hyphenated Space. Toronto: TSAR, 1994, 152-157.

PS8089.5 .M5 M85 1994

Sarbadhikary, Krishna. “Denying the Ancestral: Neil Bissoondath.” In Surviving the Fracture: Writers of the Indo-Caribbean Diaspora. New Delhi: Creative Books, 2007, 126-163.

PS8089.5 .S68 S37 2007

van Toorn, Penny. “Neil Bissoondath and His Works.” In Canadian Writers and Their Works. Fiction Series. Vol. 11, ed. Robert Lecker, Jack David and Ellen Quigley, 23-70. Toronto: ECW Press, 1996.

PS8187 .C375 v.11

Links and Other Resources

Bissoondath, Neil. “Choose a Book, Choose Another.” In More Than Words Can Say: Personal Perspectives on Literacy, 15-19. Toronto: McClelland and Stewart, 1990.
LC149 .M66 1990

Publisher Cormorant Books