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LETTERS IN CANADA 1973 It is a pleasure to welcome to this year's 'Letters in Canada' our nrst husband-and-wife team, Professors Rene Dionne and Gabrielle Poulin of the University of Ottawa, who have accepted joint responsibility for the section entitled 'Romans, recits, nouvelles, contes.' (D.M.H.) FICTION How to cope with a Hood? As the year's fiction ran on, it was somewhere past sixty that to stop counting titles was the only way even to pretend that the reader, no matter how voracious or determined, was still aHoat. One tries for a self-assuring posture. On the good side of it all, there is very much a home canon, a domestic industry, and no longer the sad need to hang On to the comforts of outside parallels. More important is the satisfying massive feel of the outburst; with the numbers comes the sense of pattern and interconnection. Criticism is useful when comparative: total discreteness can be resistant Or irreducibly private. Though that, of course brings in the other side, the risk of losing the necessary sense of something unique. A story may remind and lead on elsewhere effectively but not at the cost of its own priority; the echoes are only a part of the response. It has to be with one such echo that we must start, the particular one buried in the older sense of any story as a history. A convenience, perhaps, and risky, but it gets one forward - or backward. Back, nrst of all, to the outrage of a history denied, then as now. Peter Such presents the extinction of a historical witness in the chronicle RiveTTun (Clarke, Irwin, 145, $5.95). The last Beothuk Indian is no longer even a geographical trace. This is epitomized by the epitaph on the loss of the people whose habit of using red ochre gave the whole continent a label for its natives: 'Her grave, originally in the Church of England cemetery on the Southside, St John's, was lost when the cemetery made way for a city street.' By the time of this carelessness, the last sad winter captured in the slow death of the few Beothuk survivors and in the futile shreds of arrest attempted by the colonial administrators was itself a tragic half-memory. Such creates an effective memorial to save even this faint recall. 336 LETTERS IN CANADA Rudy Wiebe's The Temptations of Big Bear (McClelland & Stewart, 415, $8.95) tackles the problem of more forceful memory and its subsequent distortions. Rebellion in place of violent revolution is but one of the ways in which we claim to avoid the guilts our American neighbours presumably bear. Wiebe dramatizes what this kind of equivocation slides over, that even greater harshness of forgetting who rebelled and why. Perhaps it might point us even further to question whether the victor should have had his triumph, in the way he did and continues to have. This sense of a genesis betrayed and the fear of the terminal apocalypse at the other end of the journey is made speCific in Wayland Drew's The Wabeno Feast (Anansi, 280, $7.95); the present and past converge in the Right to the Wabeno, the darkness that has seemingly remained at the edge of our geography but directly in the line of our history. Drew's seventeenth-century manuscript to chart the present is structurally ingenious and saves the anxiety of the present from diffusing itself too tenuously. W.O. Mitchell's The Vanishing Point (Macmillan, 393, $9.95) uses personal genesis as his thread. His trapped spectator, Sinclair, reaches into his own past to find anchor for his concern with the dilemma of race in the contemporary west. But this reaching has its problems, too, in that the Indians of his settlement outweigh and outclass his own hurts or resolutions. The imaginative eloquence of the book speaks in the natives. Sinclair and his lost Victoria are perhaps the necessary price of getting at this truth in what may be a necessarily foreign way. Thomas York in We, the Wilderness (McGraw-Hill Ryerson, 171, $6.95) has reached a similar if more deliberate juxtaposition of the ways...


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