Wiebe, Rudy (Vol. 137)
Rudy Wiebe 1934-
（Full name Rudy Henry Wiebe） Canadian novelist, short story writer, and critic.
The following entry presents an overview of Wiebe's career through 1998. For further information on his life and works, see CLC, Volumes 6, 11, and 14.
Wiebe has been hailed as among Canada's most visionary writers. His works typically explore his personal religious beliefs, aspects of modern society, and the traditional values and character of modern Canada. He is best known for his historical fiction, notably for his award-winning The Temptations of Big Bear （1973）. Recognized for the forceful style employed in his novels and short stories, Wiebe has received both the Governor General's Award and the Lorne Piece Medal, both among the most prestigious literary awards in Canada.
Wiebe was born to a Mennonite family in Speedwell, northern Saskatchewan in 1934. His parents had moved to Canada from the Soviet Union in 1930, and their story as well as that of other Mennonite immigrants in the area inspired Wiebe's novel The Blue Mountains of China （1970）. Wiebe was raised speaking the Low German common to Mennonite families and did not learn English until he entered school. Wiebe attended a one-room schoolhouse typical of the Canadian prairie until his family moved to Alberta in 1947. Wiebe was educated at a Mennonite high school, then the University of Alberta and the University of Tuebingen in West Germany. He received his M.A. in creative writing in 1960 from the University of Alberta. In addition, Wiebe received a Th.B. from the Mennonite Brethren Bible College. For a time during the 1960s, he was editor of the Mennonite Brethren Herald. He has taught at Goshen College in Indiana and the University of Alberta. In 1973, Wiebe won the Governor General's award for The Temptations of Big Bear.
Wiebe's early novels focus on his religious beliefs and on the Mennonite community. Peace Shall Destroy Many （1962） is set near the end of World War II in a fictional Mennonite community in Saskatchewan. The novel traces the conflicts within the group, which are mainly generational, and between the group and the outside world. The Blue Mountains of China is much broader in scope and surveys Mennonite history from 1863 to 1967. The novel recounts the story of the Mennonites' search for freedom to speak their own language and to preserve their minority beliefs. Wiebe later turned his attention to another Canadian minority group, the native Canadian Indians. The Temptations of Big Bear is set in the 19th century during the period of conflict between Indians and whites in Canada. The protagonist is the Chief of the Plains Cree, Big Bear, who resists white treaties and intrusion on Indian land until he is finally put to death. The Mad Trapper （1977） is based on the true story of the largest manhunt in Royal Canadian Mounted Police history. Since many of the facts from the historical record are unclear, Wiebe fills in the blanks with his imagination. Wiebe's first attempt at a contemporary setting was My Lovely Enemy （1983）, which tells the story of history professor James Dyck and explores marriage, sexuality, and religion. Wiebe's A Discovery of Strangers （1994） is again based on historical fact. The novel recounts John Franklin's first expedition through the Canadian North in the 1820s. The narrative focuses on the group's interaction with the Yellowknife Indians and the relationship between an officer and a young Indian woman. Wiebe has also written several nonfiction works, including The Opening of American Society, which traces the development of America from the adoption of the Constitution to the Civil War, and A Stolen Life （1998） co-authored with the great-great-granddaughter of Big Bear, Yvonne Johnson. The book tells the story of Johnson's life and what led to her imprisonment for murder.
Much of the critical commentary concerning Wiebe's work centers on his fictionalization of historical events. There is disagreement among reviewers over the revisionist nature of Wiebe's novels, some asserting that a twentieth-century perspective on the past can teach us, and others complaining that it distorts reality. Critics often single out Peace Shall Destroy Many and The Temptations of Big Bear as highlights in Wiebe's career. Many reviewers credit Wiebe's balanced portrayal of minority groups for his novels' success, including his often critical look at Mennonites. Prabhu Guptara asserts, “Wiebe believes, in fact, that Mennonites have no business criticising others, at least till they have first criticised themselves.” Critics also laud Wiebe for avoiding the common traps of glorifying the Indians as noble savages or denigrating them as savage beasts. Instead he focuses on their common humanity. Many reviewers find Wiebe's prose style challenging but ultimately rewarding. Brian Bergman stated, “his uncompromising style （the narrative voice is constantly shifting, and sentences sometimes swirl on for a page or more） can be challenging.” David Lyle Jeffrey describes Wiebe's career as “a writerly career marked by unswerving commitment to a prophetic and innovative vision, and with it, the achievement of a distinctive and prophetic voice.”
Peace Shall Destroy Many （novel） 1962
First and Vital Candle （novel） 1966
The Blue Mountains of China （novel） 1970
The Story-Makers: A Selection of Modern Short Stories [editor] （short stories） 1970
The Temptations of Big Bear （novel） 1973
Where Is the Voice Coming From? （short stories） 1974
Double Vision: An Anthology of Twentieth-Century Stories in English [editor] （short stories） 1976
The Mad Trapper （novel） 1977
The Scorched-Wood People （novel） 1977
The Angel of the Tar Sands and Other Stories （short stories） 1982
My Lovely Enemy （novel） 1983
Playing Dead: A Contemplation Concerning the Arctic （essays） 1989
Silence: The Word and the Sacred （essays） 1989
A Discovery of Strangers （novel） 1994
A Stolen Life （novel） 1998
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SOURCE: “‘Clutching a Feather in a Maelstrom’: Rudy Wiebe's Critique of the Contemporary West,” in Journal of Commonwealth Literature, Vol. XVII, No. 1, 1982, pp. 146-52.
[In the following essay, Guptara traces how Wiebe portrays modernity in his Peace Shall Destroy Many and The Temptations of Big Bear.]
The principal subjects of Wiebe's fiction have begun to be investigated only since 1977. The reason for this magic date in the development of interest in Wiebe's work is not clear, but this was the year in which appeared his fifth novel, The Scorched-Wood People, as well as Patricia Morley's The Comedians: Hugh Hood and Rudy Wiebe and, more popularly, John Moss's discussion of the subject of genocide in Wiebe's work published in Moss's Sex and Violence in the Canadian Novel. There was also a spate of articles in Quill and Quire, Canadian, Weekend Magazine, and so on. Wiebe criticism has now had a look at his religious or spiritual orientation, his language（s）, view of history, and use of local records. Wiebe's work has been examined in the context of his own life and values, and of the Mennonite ethnic and religious community to which he so disturbingly belongs; it has been seen with an eye to Western Canada, to Canadian literature, to the Bible. （A Voice in the Land, edited by W. J. Keith, Edmonton: NeWest Press, 1981, is an excellent...
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SOURCE: “Blue Mountains and Strange Forms,” in Journal of Commonwealth Literature, Vol. XVII, No. 1, 1982, pp. 153-60.
[In the following essay, Gurr asserts that the essential form of Wiebe's The Blue Mountains of China “is unique, with some elements of the short story and some elements of the ‘whole-book’ story sequence, together with an architectonic structure which offers no more than a minimal justification for its being presented to the struggling reader as a novel.”]
In 2002 when Rudy Wiebe is 68 and gets Canada its first Nobel Prize for Literature, The Blue Mountains of China will probably be hailed as the first major novel of his early maturity. That won't be quite right, since it has few of the orthodox properties of the novel, and has indeed a form unique to its own peculiar properties.
The Blue Mountains has been called a saga and a chronicle, both of them terms which imply an episodic narrative.1 It is truly neither episodic nor a narrative, and can't be fitted into or even closely related to any existing category. Its form is unique, with some elements of the short story and some elements of the “whole-book” story sequence, together with an architectonic structure which offers no more than a minimal justification for its being presented to the struggling reader as a novel.2 Its essential method is not the...
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SOURCE: “History from a Different Angle: Narrative Strategies in The Temptations of Big Bear,” in Journal of Commonwealth Literature, Vol. XVII, No. 1, 1982, pp. 161-71.
[In the following essay, Howells asserts that Wiebe presents a God-centered view of history in his The Temptations of Big Bear which “transcends any regional history and allows us to accept all events as part of a divine plan beyond our limited human comprehension and which can only be asserted through faith in God.”]
WIEBE: When you start looking at the actual stuff from history from a slightly different angle you start seeing so many different stories there than the standard ones we have been given …
KROETSCH: One of the great things about Big Bear is the way you undo all the documents of the culture.
WIEBE: Yeah, but that doesn't mean that I don't discover a larger meaning which has perhaps escaped the untutored eye of a lot of people.1
In this conversation Wiebe signals his approach to historical fiction by suggesting that there are ‘different stories’ and ‘a larger meaning’ to be discovered behind the facts and fixed dates of recorded history. How Wiebe uses the narrative of The Temptations of Big Bear to reveal these...
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SOURCE: “Scheherazade as Historian: Rudy Wiebe's ‘Where is the Voice Coming From?’” in Journal of Commonwealth Literature, Vol. XVII, No. 1, 1982, pp. 172-81.
[In the following essay, Thieme traces how Wiebe's roles as historian and fiction writer come together in “Where is the Voice Coming From?”]
… a historical fact is what really took place, but where did anything take place? Each episode in a revolution or war resolves itself into a multitude of individual psychic movements. … Consequently, historical facts are no more given than any other. It is the historian, or the agent of history, who constitutes them by abstraction. …
What is true of the constitution of historical facts is no less so of their selection. From this point of view, the historian and the agent of history choose, sever and carve them up, for a truly total history would confront them with chaos.
Lévi-Strauss's remarks on the nature of historical discourse have particularly interesting implications with regard to the work of writers from post-colonial societies who, explicitly or implicitly, take issue with received versions of ‘history’ through the medium of creative literature. Their efforts frequently involve reconstituting the past according to the...
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SOURCE: “Lost Voice?” in Canadian Literature, No. 99, Winter, 1983, pp. 111-14.
[In the following review, Jeffrey concludes that “My Lovely Enemy seems, indeed, to be as unfriendly as any book could be to its author's hard-earned reputation.”]
Even after a second reading and considerable reflection, Rudy Wiebe's My Lovely Enemy seems, indeed, to be as unfriendly as any book could be to its author's hard-earned reputation. That reputation, only recently celebrated by W. J. Keith and others, is for a writerly career marked by unswerving commitment to a prophetic and innovative vision, and with it, the achievement of a distinctive and prophetic voice. The particular intonation of Wiebe's voice （awkward for some contemporary ears but appropriate to its own character and dedication） owes to the fact that he has habitually spoken words out of the past—old history translating to new story on lips and tongue distinctive enough to make us believe that there could be meaning for the present in memories of the past.
All that seems to be water under the bridge. History professor James Dyck, on-again, off-again narrator of My Lovely Enemy, has no such vital communion with the past, either his own or the past of the Indian culture he studies. One senses he must have had it once for both, but that history has lost its power to charm or challenge, that ego and the...
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SOURCE: “One-Stringed Lutes,” in Journal of Commonwealth Literature, Vol. XIX, No. 1, 1984, pp. 142-43.
[In the following essay, Wiebe discusses the use of dialect in his work.]
The finest teacher I ever worked with once said to me, “Use Standard English; dialect is a one-stringed lute.” The implication of Standard English as full-scale orchestra has intrigued and puzzled me ever since; certainly there are times when, forced to read bad writing （as all teachers must）, I would amend his statement to “Dialect is a one-stringed lute played by a one-handed player”; at best it seems capable of two notes, pathos and farce, at worst one: bathos. One monotonous, boring, unrhythmic sound.
So in my first novel, Peace Shall Destroy Many （1962）, which concerned a people whose language was not English, I nevertheless used Standard English for both narration and conversation. But from the beginning I was uneasy about that. The language of the Oxbridge Greats seemed especially out of place in the mouths of Mennonite peasants who literally spoke a Low German dialect, and I tried to unsettle the reader by drastic and sometimes awkwardly-shaped images. Of course, many readers immediately assumed I was doing so because I didn't know/couldn't write any better （some have not bothered to reconsider their opinions to this day）; this simply angered me and in a later novel, The...
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SOURCE: “On Death and Writing,” in Canadian Literature, No. 100, Spring, 1984, pp. 354-60.
[In the following essay, Wiebe ruminates on death and his impulse to write fiction.]
“The twentieth century shall be the century of Canada!” So declaimed Sir Wilfrid Laurier, Prime Minister of Canada, in 1904. He may have gotten the idea from the speech made in Boston two years earlier by the Attorney General of Nova Scotia, James Longley, who said, “The nineteenth century was the century of the United States. The twentieth century is Canada's century,” but whatever the source, Laurier laid claim to this century again and again for over a year. Eighty-three years into the century we can see more clearly; even allowing for normal political balderdash, the statement is ridiculous.
And it would have been ridiculous even if Theodore Roosevelt had said it at that time about the United States; or N. Lenin, exiled in London and dreaming about the nation of workers and peasants he was convinced he would found in his native land, a proletariat which, when he had a chance to found that nation, would prove as intractable as any nobility and he would end by founding a nation not ruled by a dictatorial and repressive czar, but by a party so brutally oppressive that anyone, even Lenin I think in his worst nightmares, would have prayed to avoid it; if he had had anyone to pray to, besides himself...
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SOURCE: “Structuring Violence: ‘The Ethics of Linguistics’ in The Temptations of Big Bear,” in Canadian Literature, No. 104, Spring, 1985, pp. 7-22.
[In the following essay, Grace asserts, “In Temptations Wiebe portrays the physical annihilation and the degradation of one race by another as, in large part, the direct result of the dominant group's inability to understand the language of the other.”]
Murder, death, and unchanging society represent precisely the inability to hear and understand the signifier as such—as ciphering, as rhythm, as a presence that precedes the signification of object or emotion. The poet is put to death because he wants to turn rhythm into a dominant element; because he wants to make language perceive what it doesn't want to say, provide it with its matter independently of the sign, and free it from denotation.
—KRISTEVA, “The Ethics of Linguistics”
“I have heard your many words, and now you have heard my few. A word is power, it comes from nothing into meaning and a Person takes his name with him when he dies. I have said my last words. Who will say a word for my people? Give my people help! I have spoken.”
—WIEBE, The Temptations of Big Bear
From his earliest to his most recent...
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SOURCE: “Imaginative and Historical Truth in Wiebe's The Mad Trapper,” in Journal of Canadian Studies, Vol. 20, No. 2, Summer, 1985, pp. 70-9.
[In the following essay, Bailey analyzes the historical facts Wiebe changes in The Mad Trapper and the artistic reasons behind them.]
The publication of The Mad Trapper by Rudy Wiebe in 1980 evoked a range of responses. Most of them expressed disappointment despite the admitted engagement with the by then well known details of the largest RCMP manhunt in history, which was also an historical first for its use of radio and airplanes in the North to track a criminal. The man pursued, whose identity has never since been discovered, was known only and incorrectly as Albert Johnson. His crime had been initially the disturbance of traps, then the wounding of one RCMP Constable （Alfred King）, and finally the killing of another （Spike Millen） on January 29, 1932. R. P. Bilan, writing in “Letters in Canada,” saw Wiebe's novella as a “minor work,” an “interlude” in his writing which Bilan hoped would finally set to rest “Wiebe's concern with historical figures.”1 William French's review was even more hostile, and concluded that the real question was why the novel had been written at all.2 More perceptively, David Carpenter saw in the tale Wiebe's continuing “fascination with the process of converting...
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SOURCE: “Fiction, Historiography, and Myth: Jacques Godbout's Les Têtes à Papineau and Rudy Wiebe's The Scorched-Wood People,” in Canadian Literature, No. 110, Fall, 1986, pp. 61-78.
[In the following essay, Vautier compares how Wiebe's The Scorched-Wood People and Jacques Godbout's Les Têtes à Papineau both attack accepted notions of fictional and historical reality.]
Jacques Godbout and Rudy Wiebe address the basic question of the nature of literary and historical reality in Les têtes à Papineau and The Scorched-Wood People. Both texts explode the concept of a “commonly experienced, objectively existing world of history” by their narrator's comments upon—and challenge to—the very notion of past reality.1 The textual recreation of important historical events permits the narrators to develop the concepts of narratorial control, historical instability, and the fictional mythologizing of the past. Louis O. Mink argues that a certain malaise in the writing of history today originates in a largely unexamined conflict between an implicit presupposition we hold and a contrary explicit belief. Our presupposition is a “vision du monde” shaped by Universal History, a concept which has “disappeared from the discourse of ideas” but which still influences our treatment of history. Universal History posits that the past is to be...
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SOURCE: “Mennonites' Minority Vision and the Outsider: Rudy Wiebe's Peace Shall Destroy Many and The Blue Mountains of China,” in Melus, Vol. 13, Nos. 3 and 4, Fall-Winter, 1986, pp. 15-26.
[In the following essay, Weaver discusses how in Peace Shall Destroy Many and The Blue Mountains of China, Wiebe portrays the tension between the comfort of the Mennonites's close-knit community and the exclusion of outsiders which this close-knit nature ultimately causes.]
“… Why must we … love only Mennonites?” That question, asked by Thom Wiens, the young Mennonite protagonist of Rudy Wiebe's novel Peace Shall Destroy Many （215）, poses the moral dilemma in ethnic literature: maintaining a minority vision without dehumanizing the outsider. In ethnic fiction, unlike mainstream fiction, the insiders are members of a minority group, and the outsiders are usually members of the dominant culture （or, perhaps, of another minority group—seen from the point of view of this particular ethnic group）. The writer of ethnic fiction faces the problem of portraying ethnic insiders' attitudes toward outsiders. How will ethnic insiders respond to those who have persecuted them? or those who have been similarly persecuted by the dominant culture? or those who simply do not share their customs and beliefs? Further, will the novels present judgment against or justification for...
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SOURCE: “Politics and Religion in Rudy Wiebe's The Scorched-Wood People,” in English Studies in Canada, Vol. XII, No. 4, December, 1986, pp. 440-50.
[In the following essay, Hoeppner proposes a political aim to the religious thrust of Wiebe's The Scorched-Wood People.]
Commentators on Rudy Wiebe's The Scorched-Wood People generally agree with Wiebe that his purpose in recreating the history of the Metis from the Metis point-of-view is to question the “white mythology one grows up with and never really questions.”1 W. J. Keith notes that “the white historian has given the white perspective often enough, but a resurrected Pierre Falcon can place Riel within the context of his own people, can force us to see the whole uprising through the eyes of those who were impelled to take up arms.”2 Allan Dueck and Sam Solecki make similar observations. These commentators also link Wiebe's “radical reinterpretation of Canadian prairie history from the perspective of the defeated outcasts”3 with his radical Christianity. Solecki explains the significance of the connection:
If, furthermore, regional fiction is by definition antithetical or oppositional in that its world view stands opposed to the dominant ideology of some real or imagined centre, then a Christian regional fiction is doubly so. In Wiebe's case this means...
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SOURCE: “Historicity in Historical Fiction: Burning Water and The Temptations of Big Bear,” in Studies in Canadian Literature, Vol. 12, No. 1, 1987, pp. 90-111.
[In the following essay, Visser asserts, “The historical fiction of The Temptations of Big Bearand [George Bowering's] Burning Water not only brings the past to life, but it succeeds in changing our interpretation of it.”]
About the strange fancy that history is given and the strange fact that history is taken. …
—George Bowering, Burning Water
In the last few decades, historiographers and fiction writers alike have shown an increasing awareness of the problems surrounding the narrativization of history. Very often, this awareness parallels a larger philosophical questioning of the power of discourse to shape our perceptions of reality. This is hardly a new concept, but the way in which modern storytellers try to deal with it is, as the emergence of the term “post-moderism” suggests.
In his article “The Value of Narrativity in the Representation of Reality,”1 Hayden White, author of various probes into the nature of historiography and the historical imagination, discusses both the advantages and the disadvantages of the narrativization of history. The...
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SOURCE: “North by Northwest,” in Maclean's Vol. 107, No. 22, May 30, 1994, pp. 45-7.
[In the following review, Bergman lauds Wiebe's A Discovery of Strangers.]
Paddling on the Yellowknife River in the summer of 1988, where sparse boreal forest dissolves into the tundra, novelist Rudy Wiebe discovered his future. He was travelling as part of a six-member canoe party intent on retracing a portion of John Franklin's first expedition to the Arctic （1819–1922）. And Wiebe carried with him a pocket-sized edition of the English explorer's journals. But Franklin's dry observations on the land he had passed through in pursuit of the elusive Northwest Passage could not begin to match Wiebe's own growing excitement at what he saw. Although the canoeists did not encounter another human being in their two weeks of travel, everywhere they looked they found traces of life, past and present: campfire pits, graves marked by circles of stones, the imprint of countless caribou hoofs above the rapids where the animals cross the river on their annual migration. “The whole landscape turned me on,” recalls the 59-year-old Wiebe. “It is so beautiful, so stunningly beautiful.”
Wiebe returned to his home in Edmonton consumed by a desire to write about Canada's Far North. And as befits one of Canada's master storytellers, the result was not some travelogue but an ambitious new historical novel,...
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SOURCE: “Wiebe's Dreamvision,” in Canadian Forum, Vol. 73, No. 833, October, 1994, pp. 43-4.
[Moss teaches English at the University of Ottawa and is the author of Enduring Dreams: An Exploration of Arctic Landscapes. In the following review, he calls Wiebe's A Discovery of Strangers “a confessional exposition, a confabulation of private dreams.”]
What you have to realize when you read Rudy Wiebe's novel, A Discovery of Strangers, is that this is the author's dreamvision. It is not an authentic rendering of Indian reality or of nineteenth century exploration, or even of the Barren Lands as an austere and prophetic context for the confrontation between irreconcilable worlds. Authenticity and historical insight are quite beyond the point, despite some silly things that have been written and said elsewhere about Wiebe's latest work. While the novel may seem to explore John Franklin's disastrous first overland expedition to the polar sea in the early 1820s and to illuminate the gathering awareness among Yellowknife Indians that these whites would forever change their lives, while it seems to document conflicting social values, the sub-Arctic landscape and the affair between a young English officer and an even younger Indian woman, while it apparently uses these materials in a sort of revisionist postmodern implementation of narrative strategies designed to expose anomalies in our...
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SOURCE: “The Global Village in Rudy Wiebe's Peace Shall Destroy Many and Bhabani Bhattacharya's A Dream in Hawaii,” in Literary Half-Yearly, Vol. 36, No. 1, January, 1995, pp. 80-93.
[In the following essay, Marshal discusses the universality of the religious messages in Wiebe's Peace Shall Destroy Many and Bhabani Bhattacharya's A Dream in Hawaii.]
In the realm of ethics and values, Materialism is naked egoism directed to the love of abstract power and animal enjoyments as such. …
（p. 27, RPCP）
Any comprehensive, and analytical study of the literature of a particular nation would often necessitate the study of a world literature in the same period for which a comparative study of the literature of different nations is essential. A “Literature-Culture” discipline has many uses, for, it can explore the ways in which literature as a key to the understanding of culture, illuminates a culture's intellectual and imaginative life. It could investigate how literature not only “reflects” and “refracts” but also “lives” and forms the values, social habits and assumptions of cultures. It could help identify the conditions in a civilization which foster or discourage creative achievement in literature and the arts and study the ways in which literature activates or inspires social concerns. Familiarisation with the creative...
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SOURCE: “Performing Selves,” in Canadian Literature, Nos. 152 and 153, Spring/Summer, 1997, pp. 249-50.
[In the following excerpt, van Toorn discusses the short pieces anthologized in Wiebe's River of Stone.]
Rudy Wiebe's River of Stone and Louis Dudek's Notebooks make available a selection of “minor” writings by two of Canada's major contemporary literary figures. But while Wiebe's strength in short narrative forms calls into question their “minor” ranking in the hierarchy of genres, Dudek's pompous banality causes us to question only the wisdom of whoever decided to bring these selections from his notebooks into print.
River of Stone takes advantage of, and will add impetus to, the revival of interest in Wiebe's work brought about by the publication of his latest novel, A Discovery of Strangers （1994）. The collection brings together twenty-two fictions and memories published between 1964 and 1994. Some, like “The Naming of Albert Johnson,” “Bear Spirit in a Strange Land,” and “Where Is the Voice Coming From?” have been anthologized before, and are already well known to long-time followers of Wiebe's work. Others, particularly the pieces written in the 1980s and 90s, are less widely known, having first come into print during a period of relative obscurity for Wiebe—the long, apparently dry spell between My Lovely Enemy...
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SOURCE: “Piracy, Penance, and Other Penal Codes: A Morphology of Postcolonial Revision in Three Recent Texts by Rudy Wiebe, John Steffler, and Joan Clark,” in English Studies in Canada, Vol. 23, No. 2, June, 1997, pp. 159-73.
[In the following essay, Tremblay questions the implications of rewriting history in postcolonial fiction by such authors as Rudy Wiebe, John Steffler, and Joan Clark.]
If to imagine is to misinterpret, which makes all poems antithetical to their precursors, then to imagine after a poet is to learn his own metaphors for his acts of reading. Criticism then necessarily becomes antithetical also, a series of swerves after unique acts of creative misunderstanding.
（The Anxiety of Influence 93）
Because we never start but interrupt, suggests Bloom, any telling is a revision, just as any version of that telling is a sub-version, though the dominant ideologies that percolate through our language are vigilant with the censure they place on revision and subversion. Both are suspect and warrant suppression. To presume, however, that any interruption of narrative （whether it is an aggressive interrogation of historiography or a playful probing of history） is not revisionist is to deny both the ideological base of language and the derivative nature of discourse—of language talking about itself and...
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SOURCE: “My Lovely Enemy Revisited,” in Essays on Canadian Writing, Vol. 63, Spring, 1998, pp. 113-33.
[In the following essay, Smyth provides a detailed look at Wiebe's My Lovely Enemy and asserts that the novel is a greater achievement than previously recognized.]
Since its appearance in 1983, Rudy Wiebe's My Lovely Enemy has been the subject of much confusion and controversy, provoking bafflement, disenchantment, and even shock. For Wiebe, the scathing comments by David Lyle Jeffrey in a literary journal late in 1983 would have been particularly disappointing, because Jeffrey himself was among those who “only recently celebrated” Wiebe's “hard-earned reputation” （“Lost” III）. Of My Lovely Enemy, he writes: “It seems, indeed, to be as unfriendly as any book could be to its author's hard-earned reputation. … [It] is cliché-ridden, hackneyed, and trite in its ultimate statement” （III）. Earlier he assessed Wiebe's The Blue Mountains of China （1970） as “by any standard a remarkable novel, one of the best in this country in our time … probably the most demanding novel English speaking Canada has yet produced” （“Search” 185–86）.
Other assessments of My Lovely Enemy, although generally more sympathetic, have failed to do justice to a novel whose complexity significantly eclipses that of The Blue...
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SOURCE: “A Gift of Understanding,” in Books in Canada, Vol. 27, No. 6, September, 1998, p. 6.
[In the following review, Harris praises A Stolen Life, by Wiebe and Yvonne Johnson for what it teaches about humanity.]
On November 18th, 1992, the novelist Rudy Wiebe received a letter from Yvonne Johnson. Johnson identified herself as a prisoner in Kingston's Prison for Women （P4W） and a great-great-granddaughter of the legendary Cree leader Big Bear. She wrote because she had read Wiebe's novel The Temptations of Big Bear. She asked him:
Please help me share what it is you know, and how you got it. How is it you came to know as much as you do? Why were you led? What was the force behind you? Who are you? Why did you choose Big Bear to write about? What sparked your interest in this powerful man of long ago?
What Wiebe did not learn from this letter was that in 1991 Yvonne Johnson had been convicted of first-degree murder and sentenced to life with no eligibility for parole for twenty-five years. She is the only woman in Canada serving this sentence. Stolen Life pieces together the complicated story that brought her that dubious distinction. The book is terrible and splendid and absolutely compelling. I read all 444 pages of it almost in a single sitting, and I've hardly been able to stop thinking about it...
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Brydon, Diana. “Troppo Agitato: Writing and Reading Cultures.” Ariel 19, No. I (January 1988): 13–32.
Discusses novels by Rudy Wiebe and Australian Randolph Stow.
Additional coverage of Wiebe's life and career is contained in the following sources published by the Gale Group: Contemporary Authors, Vol. 37-40R; Contemporary Authors New Revision Series, Vols. 42, 67; Dictionary of Literary Biography, Vol. 60; DISCovering Authors: Canadian; and DISCovering Authors Modules: Most-Studied Authors.
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