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.”