Critical Context

(Critical Guide to British Fiction)

Rudy Wiebe is a renowned Canadian novelist, short-fiction writer, playwright, and critic. He has described himself as one who tries to “explore the world that I know, the land and people of western Canada, from my particular worldview: a radical Jesus-oriented Christianity.” He has been widely praised as one of Canada’s most innovative “Prairie” writers, one whose prose is, in the words of critic Donald Stephens, “active, alive, unassuming, and infinitely touched with a growing and well-grounded lyricism.” He received the Canadian Governor General’s Award for Fiction in 1973 for his fourth novel, The Temptations of Big Bear (1973).

The “otherness” and isolation characteristic of the radical Mennonite Christianity which Wiebe attempts to chronicle are often mirrored in his non-Christian characters as well, who are themselves outcasts and wayfarers when measured against the mind-set of their times. Wiebe’s fiction generally shares with The Blue Mountains of China a profound historical orientation and evinces in varying degrees his basic themes.

While Wiebe has been criticized by some critics as too easily falling into didacticism and employing a sometimes opaque style, the strong Christian viewpoint which permeates all of his writing is presented engagingly and without distracting sermonizing. Wiebe shares with fellow Canadian writers Alice Munro and Robertson Davies a keen eye for the distinctiveness of Canadian life and landscape and remains one of North America’s most eloquent and gifted fiction writers.