Guy Vanderhaeghe Analysis

Other Literary Forms

(Literary Essentials: Short Fiction Masterpieces)

Guy Vanderhaeghe’s first novel, My Present Age (1984), was a finalist for the Booker McConnell Prize and has been translated into several languages. Homesick (1989) won the City of Toronto Book Award. Despite these honors, Vanderhaeghe’s short stories were generally more critically esteemed than his novels. This changed when, in 1996, Vanderhaeghe’s novel The Englishman’s Boy, set in Saskatchewan in the 1870’s and Hollywood in the 1920’s, won the coveted Governor-General’s Award for Fiction. In the late 1990’s, international publishers became more interested in Canadian novels, especially in the wake of the success of the film version of Michael Ondaatje’s novel The English Patient (1992). It was hoped that The Englishman’s Boy, with its similar title, would become both a popular and critical success. This did not happen, though the novel sold moderately well. The short-story form, more immune to marketing, may still be the leading forum for Vanderhaeghe’s distinct and incisive talent. Vanderhaeghe has also written two plays, I Had a Job I Liked Once (1992) and Dancock’s Dance (1996).


(Literary Essentials: Short Fiction Masterpieces)

Man Descending, Guy Vanderhaeghe’s first collection of short stories, won the Geoffrey Faber Memorial Prize in 1982. His longer fiction also won the Governor-General’s Award and the City of Toronto Book Award, as well as being nominated for the Booker McConnell Prize. He has been awarded an honorary Litt. D. by the University of Saskatchewan.


(Literary Essentials: Short Fiction Masterpieces)

Gray, Alasdair. “Varieties of Contempt.” In The New York Times Book Review (October 13, 1985): 28. Vanderhaeghe was fortunate to have his first public exposure to American readers mediated through this distinguished Scottish novelist, who praises his Canadian counterpart for the “variety of voices” and “special sort of rage and hatred” evoked by his characters.

Hillis, Doris. “An Interview with Guy Vanderhaeghe.” Wascana Review 19, no. 1 (1984): 11-28. This interview of Vanderhaeghe by a respected local critic is largely taken up with discussion of the stories in Man Descending.

Keahey, Deborah. Making It Home: Place in Canadian Prairie Literature. Winnipeg: University of Manitoba Press, 1998. This critical comment on Vanderhaeghe is divided into specialized articles in academic journals and brief mentions in overall surveys on Canadian literature. This is a good example of the latter category, importantly situating Vanderhaeghe in his regional milieu and considering later as well as earlier work.

Prober, Kenneth G. Writing Saskatchewan: Twenty Critical Essays. Regina: University of Regina, 1989. Includes several comments on Vanderhaeghe’s early stories.

Van Herk, Aritha. Review of Man Descending, by Guy Vanderhaeghe. Western American Literature 18, no. 3 (November, 1983). This early review by a major contemporary of Vanderhaeghe is a valuable consideration of his themes and techniques.