The Governor of the Northern Province



Nominated for the 2006 Scotiabank Giller Prize

“[A] scathing portrayal of Canadian smugness and naïveté; brilliantly funny and meant to sting … Boyagoda's language is colourful and alliterative, and his long sentences often dance with a storyteller's rhythm. The characters and their interactions are vividly depicted with choice details … This is a sharply intelligent novel, both entertaining and disquieting. It tells us a lot about ourselves, more than we might want to know.”

Winnipeg Free Press

“Randy Boyagoda's
Governor of the Northern Province
is that rarity: a very funny Canadian novel. Boyagoda takes a satirical machete to contemporary Canadian society and politics in his fearless debut.”

—Nick Pashley in
Quill & Quire
's Best of 2006 issue

“Boyagoda moves between past and present; each juxtaposition between African atrocity and the cud-chewing Canadian provincials arrives as a giddy jolt … Boyagoda faces up to atrocity through savage comedy … Boyagoda's prose is exhilarating to read in hummingbird bursts; each paragraph flashes with inventive scorn.”

The Globe and Mail

“Nice liberal Canada skewered for dinner: A T.O. smartypants creates a war criminal to send up smug Canuck hypocrisy and gets a Giller Prize nod for his trouble … [A] boisterously irreverent first novel … Boyagoda zeroes in on various targets without slackening pace: colonialism, foreign aid, Anglo reserve and the exalted status of hockey all take stinging hits.”

Toronto Star

“An auspicious debut.”

National Post

“There is real bravery in approaching such dark, emotionally charged subject matter with humour … Very funny … the book shines with artistic certainty … Boyagoda is to be commended for raising difficult issues and tackling them in such a wonderfully ambitious manner.
Governor of the Northern Province
is a worthwhile addition to the literature of political absurdity.”

Literary Review of Canada

“Like any accomplished satirist, Boyagoda has a great time with language … His evocations of human beings … are completely vivid, full of humour, insight and compassion. Boyagoda really is one of those writers who makes you laugh and cry at the same time.”

The Gazette

“A chilling and very funny satire on politics, Canada and—for that matter—human nature … Mordecai Richler was one of a kind, a composer of often outrageous satires that barbequed most of the sacred cows in our midst, and his death appeared to mark the end of that sort of writing in this country. Not so fast, Randy Boyagoda seems to be saying. I liked this book a lot.”

The University of Toronto Bookstore Review

“Richler's successor?”


“In Boyagoda's hands literary satire isn't dead; it just might have a fighting chance.”


“Scathing and unpredictable,
Governor of the Northern Province
is a novel of considerable accomplishment; Randy Boyagoda's merciless prose marks him as a talent to watch.”

—Trevor Cole, author of
The Fearsome Particles

Norman Bray in the Performance of His Life



is a professor of literature at Ryerson University. He has written for
The New York Times, The Walrus
The Globe and Mail
, and he is a frequent guest on CBC Radio.





a novel


Thank you to Ellen Schlosser, Ken Alexander, Bruce Westwood,

David Davidar and Nicole Winstanley. —RB


Published by the Penguin Group

Penguin Group (Canada), 90 Eglinton Avenue East, Suite 700, Toronto, Ontario, Canada M4P 2Y3 (a division of Pearson Canada Inc.)

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Penguin Books Ltd, Registered Offices: 80 Strand, London WC2R 0RL, England

First published in a Viking Canada hardcover by Penguin Group (Canada),

a division of Pearson Canada Inc., 2006

Published in this edition, 2007

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 (WEB)

Copyright © Randy Boyagoda, 2006

Author representation: Westwood Creative Artists

94 Harbord Street, Toronto, Ontario M5S 1G6

“Water Spider,” the first chapter of this novel, originally appeared in
The Walrus

All rights reserved. Without limiting the rights under copyright reserved above, no part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in or introduced into a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means (electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise), without the prior written permission of both the copyright owner and the above publisher of this book.

Publisher's note: This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents either are the product of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons living or dead, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.

Manufactured in Canada.


Boyagoda, Randy, 1976–

Governor of the Northern Province : a novel / Randy Boyagoda.

ISBN 978-0-14-305092-6

I. Title.

PS8603.O9768G69     2007    C813'.6    C2007-904895-1

ISBN-13: 978-0-14-305092-6

ISBN-10: 0-14-305092-3

Except in the United States of America, this book is sold subject to the condition that it shall not, by way of trade or otherwise, be lent, re-sold, hired out, or otherwise circulated without the publisher's prior consent in any form of binding or cover other than that in which it is published and without a similar condition including this condition being imposed on the subsequent purchaser.

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For Anna and Mira,

the grace and wonder of my life

Anything—anything can be done in this country. That's what I say; nobody, here, you understand,
, can endanger your position. And why?

—Joseph Conrad,
Heart of Darkness

The measure you give will be the measure you get back.

—Luke 6:38




He laughed at what passed for tragedy in his new country. Last week, the body of a little girl was found pressed against a sewer grate. She had been catching water spiders on a creek swollen by the spring thaw. A floating barrette alerted a man walking his dog.

Little Caitlin. In the newspapers at the convenience store where he currently worked, and on the televisions at the laundromat where he attempted to wash his new clothes, and during the elevator chatter at the apartment where he now lived, so high above the earth. Little Caitlin. She was everywhere, as was talk of public safety committees and the need for a protective barrier around the creek when it rose too high. Bokarie would attend the memorial service planned for that Sunday, intent upon fitting in but also a little curious. His manager told him that hundreds were expected, perhaps even a thousand. Each had been asked to wear something pink. That was Little Caitlin's colour. If the petition circulating was successful, the town crest would gain a sash, in loving memory.

His old country occupied a corner of the Friday newspaper's front page. Sopping with sweat, Bokarie carried in the stack at the start of his morning shift. It was April northwest of Ottawa, but he remained suspicious of Canadian sunlight. Because his back and shoulder muscles were still in scar tissue atrophy (an unexpected help during his asylum hearing) he stooped over and twined his arms around the bundle to pick it up. Hunched, he shimmied through the door. His wet cheek pressed against the topmost paper, smearing across a thumbnail picture of his old leader, the General. Peeling away the damp smudge, he saw the dark sunglasses and the counterfeit medals and the smart beret that, he had been taught, displayed the elegant monstrosity of blood-and-coin patriotism. The General was smiling. He might have been on his way to prison for crimes against the People, or to the People's Palace for finally disposing of the President. Bokarie did not turn to page A-20 to find out, just as he switched the radio dial to music whenever he heard “According to UN monitors, the situation in west central Africa today became …”

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