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Guy Vanderhaeghe Biography

canadian saskatchewan stories contributor

Nationality: Canadian. Born: Esterhazy, Saskatchewan, 1951. Education: University of Saskatchewan, Saskatoon, B.A. 1972, M.A. 1975; University of Regina, B.Ed. 1978. Career: Archivist, University of Saskatchewan, Saskatoon, 1973-75; Editor, Journal of Orthomolecular Medicine, Regina, Saskatchewan, 1976-78; high school English and history teacher, Herbert, Saskatchewan, 1978-79; Researcher, Access Consulting (health care consultants), Saskatoon, 1979-81; writer, 1981—; writer-in-residence, Saskatoon Public Library, 1983-84. Lives in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Canada. Awards: Governor General's award for English fiction, 1982, 1996. Agent: c/o Writers Union of Canada, 24 Ryerson Ave., Toronto, Ontario, Canada M5T 2P3.

PUBLICATIONS

Novels

My Present Age. Toronto, Macmillan of Canada, 1984; Ticknor &Fields, 1985.

Homesick. Toronto, McClelland & Stewart, 1989; Ticknor & Fields, 1990.

The Englishman's Boy. New York, Picador USA, 1997.

Short Stories

Man Descending. Toronto, Macmillan of Canada, 1982; New York, Ticknor & Fields, 1985.

The Trouble with Heroes. Ottawa, Borealis Press, 1983.

Things as They Are? Short Stories. Toronto, McClelland & Stewart, 1992.

Plays

I Had a Job I Liked, Once: A Play. Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, FifthHouse, 1992.

Other

Dancock's Dance. Winnipeg, Manitoba, Blizzard Publishers, 1996.

Contributor, Aurora: New Canadian Writing. New York, Doubleday, 1978.

Contributor, Aurora: New Canadian Writing. New York, Doubleday, 1979.

Contributor, Aurora: New Canadian Writing. New York, Doubleday, 1980.

Contributor, Sundogs: Stories from Saskatchewan, edited by RobertKroetsch. Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan, Thunder Creek Publishing Cooperative, 1980.

Contributor, Best Canadian Short Stories. Oberon Press, 1980.

Contributor, Best American Short Stories, 1982.

Contributor, Myths and Voices: Contemporary Canadian Fiction, edited by David Lampe. Fredonia, New York, White Pine Press, 1993.

* * *

Having established himself on the Canadian literary scene on the strengths of such story collections as Man Descending, for which he was awarded the Governor General's award in 1982, and The Trouble with Heroes, Guy Vanderhaeghe turned to the novel form in 1984 with My Present Age. Pivoting on the quixotic quest of Ed, a character from his earlier stories who sets off to find a wife who has abandoned him, this is a story that is equal parts journey to the past and exploration of the future. More importantly, Ed's sometimes comic (mis)adventures prove an opportunity for extended exploration of many of the themes and issues that Vanderhaeghe probes in the strongest of his shorter fictions: the complex influences of time and place on the lives of individuals and communities; questions of what constitutes a hero and an act of heroism in the postmodern world; the moral implications of a cultural tendency toward stultifying self-deceptions; and the resiliency of the human spirit and the ability of individuals to search out spiritual and emotional nourishment in even the bleakest of environments.

Similar questions and struggles are revisited in Homesick, Vanderhaeghe's second novel, as the widow Vera Monkman works toward reconciling herself with her own father and the prairie town in which she lives. With clear affiliations with the works of such antecedent prairie novelists as Margaret Laurence (the Manawaka books) and Sinclair Ross (notably As for Me and My House), it is a story that reveals a community torn between an intense, almost obsessive yearning for a sense of home and an equally powerful fear of the realities of the harsh geography in which they find themselves.

Although both novels were well received by critics and reviewers, it was Vanderhaeghe's third book, the richly textured The Englishman's Boy, that secured him a position in the upper ranks of Canadian novelists. Awarded the Governor General's award and nominated for the prestigious Giller prize, it is a carefully crafted narrative that weaves together two causally linked stories: one of a little known late nineteenth-century massacre of an encampment of Assiniboine by a group of white wolf hunters (based on an actual event in Canadian history), the other of a 1920s Hollywood mogul's determination to renarrate the details of the event in support of his megalomaniacal, and degradingly revisionist, goals. Connecting these two historical threads is Harry Vincent, a Canadian expatriate and frustrated writer hired by the mogul to find an infamous "Indian fighter," Shorty McAdoo, who might (or might not) hold the key to the many mysteries clouding the historical "truth" of the slaughter. Myopic and passive, Vincent proves the ideal witness to the increasingly sinister events that unfold in the novel; drawn deeper and deeper into the story of the Cypress Hills massacre, he proves a less than astute reader of the events that unfold around him. Developing slowly and with careful attention to subtle ironies and to the rhythms and nuances of language, The Englishman's Boy forces other readers (those of the novel proper) to confront questions of how they come to know the past, and how, via a traditional cultural commitment to such abstractions as historical truth and objectivity, each of us is to varying degrees complicit in the attitudes and policies that help sustain the machineries of exploitation and institutional repression serving the present.

—Klay Dyer

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