The Literary History of Saskatchewan – Volume One

23 July 2013

The Literary History of Saskatchewan. Volume 1 – Beginnings
edited by David Carpenter
Published by Coteau Books
Review by Keith Foster
$19.95 ISBN 978-1-55050-515-3 (v. 1)

The Literary History of Saskatchewan sets out to be a comprehensive history of literary writing in Saskatchewan. It encompasses a scope as broad as the prairie landscape, with as much variety as the flora and fauna of that landscape.

Volume 1 of a three-volume scholarly study, this book focuses on the period covering the oral traditions of First Nations storytellers and early European explorers to the burgeoning Saskatchewan literary world of the 1970s.

Over the decades, Saskatchewan has produced a bumper crop of successful authors, many with now-familiar names, such as W.O. Mitchell, Sinclair Ross, Anne Szumigalski and Guy Vanderhaeghe.

The book is a collection of eleven essays and four tributes covering all genres of writing, including non-fiction, novels, poetry, and playwriting. It is a collaborative effort by sixteen essayists, virtually all with university backgrounds, under the editorship of David Carpenter, himself an author with clearly established credentials.

Carpenter points out in his foreword that the literary centre of Saskatchewan is wherever writers write, whether at a sturdy oak desk, in a cabin alcove, on the kitchen table, or atop a bed.

Each essay is followed by a list of references, for those wishing to delve deeper into Saskatchewan’s literary past. The book also includes an index, an absolute necessity for this type of work.

With an over-abundance of material to choose from, the most difficult part of assembling this book must have been deciding what to put in and what to leave out. Fortunately, there are two more volumes in this series slated to cover those left out.

Volume 1 is just a foretaste of the literary smorgasbord that awaits those who savour the flavour of Saskatchewan literature.


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