Who is W. D. Valgardson, and what has he contributed to Canadian literature?
William Dempsey Valgardson is a Canadian author who has written four collections of short stories as well as several novels, several books of poetry, and two children's books. He was born in 1939 in Manitoba and attended the University of Manitoba and the University of Iowa. He currently teaches at the University of Victoria and lives in British Columbia.
His collections of short stories, in order of publication, include Bloodflowers, God is Not a Fish Inspector, Red Dust, and What Can't Be Changed Shouldn't Be Mourned. Most of Valgardson's characters in these stories are in a struggle against the elements as well as against inexorable fate. Though many of them are victims of their own violence, some of these characters do eventually triumph over their circumstances.
Valgardson's novels are a bit different than his short stories. His first novel, Gentle Sinners, was published in 1980. It
is an account of a young boy's discovery of his ancestry and traditional community.
His next novel, published twelve years later, was written in a bit more humorous vein, though the subject matter is still quite weighty and universal. The protagonist of The Girl with the Botticelli Face is a writer who struggles to find meaning in a tumultuous and rather meaningless world.
Valgardson has received numerous awards, including the Ethel Wilson Fiction Prize and the Books in Canada First Novel Award. His greatest contribution to Canadian literature, however, is his storytelling ability. One of the things he routinely does on the university and literature lecture circuit is create
original, new stories of the Icelandic Settlers' experience in Canada, and old legends from the land of mists and volcanoes.
This is a gift of both literary and cultural value to his country, as he reinvigorates (gives new life to; revives) the history of Canada's native people and the land they settled.