MICHAELS, ANNE (1958– ) Canadian poet, novelist. The youngest of four children, Michaels was born in Toronto, where she continued to live. In 1980, she earned a B.A. in English from the University of Toronto, and taught creative writing courses there as well. Musically accomplished, she composed music for the theater. The Weight of Oranges (1986), her first collection of poetry, won the Commonwealth Prize for the Americas. A second poetry collection, Miner's Pond (1991), won the Canadian Authors' Association Award for Poetry and was short-listed for both the Governor General's Literary Award (Canada's most prestigious literary prize) and the Trillium Award. A single volume containing both books was published in 1997. A third poetry collection, Skin Divers, was published in 1999.
Michaels's first novel, Fugitive Pieces, quickly established her national and international reputation. The work is a Jewish Canadian artist parable, a bipartite intergenerational book which juxtaposes two first-person autobiographical memoirs. The longer first section presents the journals (subdivided into seven titled sections) composed retrospectively by Jakob Beer, a Jewish poet, translator, and orphaned child survivor of the Holocaust, who is rescued from the mud of a Polish town and raised on a Greek island by Athos Roussos, an archaeologist, scientist, and righteous gentile. The second section records the narrative of Ben, the child of Holocaust survivors, who grows up in Weston, Ontario (then a separate municipality, and, in the present of his life, a suburb of Toronto), and who eventually finds on the Greek island of Idhra the two journal volumes which form the first part of the novel. Although their individual histories differ, the lives of Jakob and Ben have been profoundly shaped and distorted by the Shoah. In language which is luminous, evocative, and poignant, the novel explores the nature of identity and the relation between personal, historical, genealogical, and geological memory. It highlights the acts of reading and writing and the power of language and love to heal, to redeem, and to provide meaning in a post-Holocaust world.
Fugitive Pieces was a Canadian literary phenomenon. It remained at, or near, the top of the Canadian bestseller list for over two years, and the rights to the novel were sold to 21 publishers around the world. The work has been awarded many prizes, both in Canada and abroad. These include the Trillium Prize and the Chapters / Books in Canada First Novel Award Canada; the Orange Prize for Fiction by female writers, and the Guardian Fiction Prize in Great Britain; the Lannan Literary Award in the United States and the Giuseppe Acerbi Literary Award in 2001.