RW: Discovery began as a novel of place, but not even tracking the route of the first Franklin expedition over the Arctic tundra by canoe—as my son and I did with four friends in —gave me enough stimulus to write that novel. It came from the Dene people who still live north of Yellowknife, and their ancestral stories, which I discerned in faint strands, almost unnoticeable whiffs, in the laborious Narrative of a Journey to the Shores of the Polar Sea Franklin published in The British courage and suffering is obvious: eleven of the twenty-one expedition members died.
It was not as catastrophic as the third expedition twenty-five years later, when all crew members, with Franklin himself, vanished forever, but it was enough. As the Narrative makes plain, everyone on the expedition would have died if the Dene had not saved them. That was what shaped the story for me: not the overweening English sense of pride and high purpose brought to nothing by the relentless land, but the beauty of the Dene people who had never seen a white person before. As Dr. John Richardson, the scientist on the expedition, later wrote to his wife:.
They nursed and fed us with the same tenderness they would have bestowed on their own infants, and finally, on December 11, conveyed us to Fort Providence, the nearest post. Image: In your novel Sweeter Than All the World , a history of the Mennonite people from the early days of persecution to eventual settlement in Paraguay and Canada, you describe a number of cruel events: Anabaptist women burned at the stake, the mechanics of the tongue screw, and other acts of violence. These events occurred in the sixteenth century. Has Christianity essentially changed in regard to its use of violence?
RW: Christianity has always and forever been changing. Is any Christian church today like the Jerusalem church of the first century? Like the Gentile Greek church that grew so quickly out of that beginning? I see the Protestant Reformation of the sixteenth century as one of many attempts to revitalize and purify our understanding of what living like a follower of Jesus can mean.
With all we now understand of human behavior, we cannot be surprised that some of us will always try to stop change with violence, and some try to resist that violence. The attempts at change on the part of my own Anabaptist-Reformation heritage have always fascinated me.
Though Mennonites denounced war, their communal use of the ban could be brutal at times. Image: Your novels are often characterized by dislocations in time and place, shifts in point of view, by the inclusion of historical documents and artifacts, and by what some consider a dense or difficult prose style—all of which might challenge readers.
RW: When I look back over my writing, I think that over the years the personal experience of the characters has become more and more the focus. I seem to have outgrown the omniscient narrator and found the individual central intelligence a more useful point of view but still in third person. I believe every reader reads a slightly different story, and I want to push that difference as far as I imaginatively can.
Stolen Life book. Read 57 reviews from the world's largest community for readers . Written with primal intensity, touched with redeeming compassion, Rudy. I gave the book to my grandmother for a read because of our heritage, enrolled Cree tribe members. My grandmother said their was to much cussing and the.
So, my stories are never a fast trail of connected action to be raced through—not even the manhunt in The Mad Trapper, though it comes closest. I want the reader to slow down, to be puzzled, to understand that several complex things are happening at the same time, and to be intrigued enough to want to recognize every one of them.
As far as my so-called difficult prose style, to be a bit flippant, my love of the German language may have something to do with that. In German, sentences can be pulled out to almost any length as the classic German stylists do because the reader keeps waiting for the dominant verb which must finally, once and for all, appear and nail down the action and meaning and end the sentence.
Unfortunately, an English sentence is not structured that way; in English the main verb needs to be close to the main noun, and so the writer must make do with long addendums of phrases and subordinate clauses and commas and semicolons and dashes and brackets. Do I make myself clear? To sum up, in writing I concentrate on telling the story, but always telling it to a reader. Story and reader should always be I-You, the basic form of all human relationships.
Thank you, Martin Buber. Image: You spoke earlier of the three languages spoken in a Mennonite community: Low German for everyday life, High German for church, and English in school. What advantages do you feel are given you—or any writer—by familiarity with a number of languages?
RW: Low German was my first language, what I first babbled as the last baby in our seven-child family. It is what I spoke to my parents all my life. One beauty of Low German was that it was totally oral I never read it until decades later and perhaps that is part of why voice is so important to me: the particular voice of a person first impressed me as a child, a voice speaking in words I could never write down, as I could later in English or High German if I wanted to remember them exactly. Low German was sound only, remembered in all the delights of hearing, never visible as written words.
This was a strange and profoundly evocative restriction for a writer dealing with his first and most warmly intimate language.
As for knowing several languages, being able to shift from one to the other without a conscious thought, that is a supreme gift for a writer. It teaches you the aural meanings of language, how something can be said in one that is never quite possible in another, how implications, puns, hints are untranslatable. In my English writing, I could try and push the Germanicism of the language, as I did, for example, in The Blue Mountains of China; some readers were annoyed, others enlightened. I like intelligent readers.
Image: Your latest novel, Come Back , describes the experience of Hal Wiens, an elderly Mennonite man who is painfully brought back to the death of his son by suicide twenty-five years earlier. RW: Homo sapiens are self-aware creatures, and in that sense death is a very simple matter for us: we know death is inevitable.
Not one person, no matter how brilliant or disabled, poor or rich, will escape it. But when a person deliberately seizes that inevitability and makes it happen, those who knew and loved that person grieve, grieve deeply, sometimes for the remainder of their own lives.
View All. You are commenting using your Google account. RW: In , I wrote a short story never published which contained the first strands of character and conflict that grew into Peace Shall Destroy Many. Error rating book. It's a shame what our citizens would do to one another; mortifying and mistreating each other unfairly because of a foolish skin color.
For a beloved to deliberately leave, to choose to be gone forever from what was our mutual life on earth, opens a wound that will not heal. But then one day a date will appear on the calendar and before you can skip past it your memory catches: Today was her birthday, she would be forty-seven, and…and…. RW: The saying of Jesus is found only in Mark, and it has multifaceted, contradictory meanings, as his statements often do.
Not only does it imply, as you say, the paradox of preservation and purification: fire can be seen as life-giving—as in cooking food, or providing warmth—but it can also be violently destructive. Which does Jesus mean? The second epigraph builds on the first. The Image archive is supported in part by an award from the National Endowment for the Arts.
Issue Previous Archives. And the second is like unto the first: Lord, have mercy on me, a sinner. John Richardson, the scientist on the expedition, later wrote to his wife: [We six] survivors were found by the Indians on Nov. Out of such interactive humanity, novels can grow.
More Interviews. Welcome to Image. He later left behind his wife and family, and fled to Edmonton, where he joined a Native support group that helped him come to terms with his addiction and face his PTSD. Metatawabin has worked tirelessly to bring traditional knowledge to the next generation of Native youth and leaders, as a counsellor at the University of Alberta, Chief in his Fort Albany community, and today as a youth worker, Native spiritual leader and activist. His work championing indigenous knowledge, sovereignty and rights spans several decades and has won him awards and national recognition.
His story gives a personal face to the problems that beset Native communities and fresh solutions, and untangles the complex dynamics that sparked the Idle No More movement. From Penguin Random House Canada. The Arctic ice is receding each year, but just as irreplaceable is the culture, the wisdom that has allowed the Inuit to thrive in the Far North for so long. And it's not just the Arctic.
The whole world is changing in dangerous, unpredictable ways. Sheila Watt-Cloutier has devoted her life to protecting what is threatened and nurturing what has been wounded. In this culmination of Watt-Cloutier's regional, national, and international work over the last twenty-five years, The Right to Be Cold explores the parallels between safeguarding the Arctic and the survival of Inuit culture, of which her own background is such an extraordinary example.
This is a human story of resilience, commitment, and survival told from the unique vantage point of an Inuk woman who, in spite of many obstacles, rose from humble beginnings in the Arctic to become one of the most influential and decorated environmental, cultural, and human rights advocates in the world.
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