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ARCHIVED - Canada: A Literary Tour

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by Katherine Govier

Canada is young and vast, yet its territory remains-to most of us-undiscovered. As the great Canadian literary critic Northrop Frye said, the question is not, "who are we?" but "where is here?"

The story of our settlement has many chapters. Petroglyphs in cliffs near Peterborough, Ontario, and Canmore, Alberta, tell of first inhabitants. It continues through European settlement, war, depression and prosperity. These stories are found not in rocks but in books. Our literature expands daily as immigrants from around the globe join their tales to the saga.

White page with black print

Typescript of the poem "Where I Come From," by Elizabeth Brewster


Writers have listened hard to the land and to themselves. The wilderness of Canada includes Arctic barrens and Ontario forests. We journey from small towns to anonymous city streets. Everywhere we settle, we create a domestic landscape, from Vancouver's Chinatown, as remembered by Wayson Choy, to the Cape Breton coal-mining towns of the novels of Alistair MacLeod. Carol Shields gives us Winnipeg flower shops, Michel Tremblay paints pictures of Montréal life, Timothy Findley describes Rosedale mansions, and Gabrielle Roy shares stories of the small street where she grew up in St. Boniface.

So too, the secrets of our peoples' hearts have been imagined, recorded, and kept. Our places continue to speak with writers' voices. As readers, we can travel from sea to sea to sea. As literary travellers, we can discover Canada.