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HUM ANITIES 409 the person he really was, and this person he identified with the admittedly lazy, irresponsible, instinct-driven role he adopted among his own people. The alternative was the 'white pattern' of infatuation with organization , 'with the vertical structures of W estern European economics and politics.' White society, he feels, has alienated the individual from himself and lost the instinctive, organic unity of the Indian world, the corporate C Onsciousness that he sees in the apparent muddle and waste of life on the reserve. The book ends with a hymn of praise to the redemptive powers of this way of life and a spirited assault on the artificially structured patterns of white society. Pelletier's medium is the rhetoric of prophecy rather than autobiography . The book serves to explore his own mind and present state of feeling, bu t we end knowing no more than how it feels to be wilr Pelletier. Maria Campbell's work has elements of prophecy, but it is essentially a story and one of such significance as to transcend its creator's opinion of its meaning and to acquire the symbolic value of autobiography that has attained the level of fiction. Nor is it discreditable to Jane Willis that her work remains mere autobiography; indeed, after No Foreign Land it is a relief to turn back to a simple chronicle of fact. But these books demand to be judged as social documents, not simpl y as literature, and that is a far more difficult matter. My one direct contact with the native world is an Indian woman, nO w adjusted to an urban environment but deeply influenced by her background. She found Ceneish to be a believable and interesting account of one kind of Indian upbringing. H alfhreed she found overpoweringly perceptive, accurate, and moving. No Foreign Land simply infuriated her, as a wholly romanticized account of life on the reserve, above all one that conveniently ignored what such life means for the WOmen who live it. Her judgement of Pelletier seems not unreasonable, even if one looks only at the evidence provided by the other two books. But each writer of autobiography is more or less limited in his perspective; a more accurate, general view can only come with more books of this kind, more attempts to render the truth of native experience. ( P ET ER ALLEN) Donald Stephens, editor, H( riters of the Prairies. University of British Columbia Press, Canadian Literature Serie ·, 208, $5.50; A.J.M. Smith, T owards a V iew of Canadian Letters; Selected Critical Essays, 1928-197 l. University o[ British Columbia Press, 230, $9.00 d oth, $5.50 paper The standards of scholarly editing of books in Canadian letters are still as low as Robin Matthews thinks they are if Donald Stephens' edition of 410 LETTERS IN CANADA Writers of the Prairies is representative. In the notes on contributors, the title of Rudy Wiebe's novel is given as Peace Shall Destroy Man, and Susan Jackel is alleged to have written an article on Sinclair Ross which turns out to be an undergraduate essay on the house as a symbol in novels about the prairie. The editor allows one of his contributors to call Grove's Two Generations a novel of the southern prairies and another to destroy the Significance of W.O. Mitchell's title by putting a question mark after Who Has Seen the Wind. He cannot settle on a spelling of Calvinism and he permits solecisms like 'help but' and 'around which the novel centres.' In his introduction he advances a theory of doubtful validity that the critic of prairie literature cannot be objective; he 'must become part of a landscape that is both fictional and real' because 'the pure physicality of the landscape is always with the people On the prairies.' (Only on the prairie? What about Africa, for example?) Whatever an opaque phrase like becoming part of a landscape means, it seems odd that the intelligent reader of Sinclair Ross or Margaret Laurence has to undergo a metamorphOSiS that he does not need for an imaginative understanding of Hardy or Conrad. One wonders if the theory is a prefatory...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1712-5278
Print ISSN
0042-0247
Pages
pp. 409-412
Launched on MUSE
2015-07-01
Open Access
No
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