Tuesday, November 16, 2004

Canadian Literature

Distilling everything we've read so far I have determined that this is what makes up Canadian Literature.

It's about immigrants not melting in. Groups of people speaking discreet languages and taking care of their own. The dangerous jobs they have- digging tunnels, tanning leather, crocheting wires to form bridges, mining uranium, mining the sea for its treasures. Maybe it's too cold for them to melt together. Each group freezes into its own shapes.

Canadian Literature is about looking back to countries of origin. The heavy family history of the survivors who live on in Canada. Remembrance of the misery before leaving. Crushing poverty. Sickness. An uncertain future. Misery during the crossing. So much water stretching forward and backward. Sickness and death following them from their homeland. Small bodies wrapped in cloth, sliding down a plank. The ritual of burial at sea.

Then there is the cold. Ice that freezes solid enough for horses to walk across. But also ice that freezes treacherous enough for cattle, sleighs, and people to fall through and be swallowed whole. Cold that kills.

Trees that serve as a border. Trees that speak, that flow down rivers in a "corduroy road," that are stuck into the ice as a guide. Trees that signal danger. Trees that hide the danger. Danger trees.

War and its aftermath. Missing limbs. Dead sons, siblings. Maimed bodies and minds. The missing people who should be there but aren't.

Canadian Literature is also about not being America. Not assuming that everyone wants to be just like you. Not being a world superpower. The importance of provincial autonomy. Republic. Confederacy. Nationalism on a local level. Going beyond the appearance of things, but also concealing more than is revealed. Ambiguity. The absence of bad men. Being the younger brother.

Caring too much and trying too hard.

O Canada, we stand on guard for thee.


Blogger fresca said...

Hi, Kiara--This is Francesca. I'm a friend of Tim McGuire & Kate and I got here by following up his live link to Afongen which led me to Wordspinning. I really love your blog--I went into a pang of nostalgia about academia, reading it.
I love reading your thoughts about Canadian lit--this post is lovely.

I went back to school when I was your age (I'm 43) and finished my BA in Religious Studies at the U--because I was an older student and did a ton of independent studies, it felt like grad school. However, I continue to play with the idea of going back to grad school. But I can't quite bring myself to put myself back in the Institution.

Anyway, I haven't read all your posts, but I wanted to tell you I did get snagged by the Belief-O-Meter quiz last night. What a hoot! My results were close to yours, but they were totally wrong for me. I am in love with Catholic sacramentality--the quiz totally didn't touch on the PHYSICAL aspects of faith.
I wrote about my quiz results on my blog, flightless parrots, this morning.

Anyway--nice to meet you. Keep writing!

8:20 AM  

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