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Dahlie, Hallvard.

Vancouver, University of British Columbia Press, cl986. 216pp, cloth, $2230, ISBN 0-7748-0252-9. CIP

Reviewed by Ruth Cosstick

Volume 14 Number 6
1986 November

The Roman poet Ovid, unhappily exiled, is the point of departure for University of Calgary professor Hallvard Dahlie to postulate his theory that the exilic experience, dwelling "at the edge of the world, a land far removed from my own," has a profound affect on the writer. From the early-nineteenth-century peripatetic journalist and author, Sara Jeannette Duncan, to the contemporary Canadian-born European lady, Mavis Gallant, adaptability and its uncompromising opposite are treated through the writers and their characters. The experience of such diverse Emigres as colonial Frederick Philip Grove and the currently notable Josef Skvorecky help to make the point that physical and psychological locations may converge to create what Dahlie refers to as "dramatic possibilities."

The loss of homeland is contrasted with the anticipation of the new from the well-known bush clearings of Susannah Moodie to the lesser known complexities and complaints of Wyndham Lewis. Always topical, Canadian and American culture is discussed from various viewpoints. Most of the roughly twenty writers treated have been as prolific as their Ovidian predecessor.

Dahlie has charted the travels of these Canadian abroad and new Canadians at home with precision, providing chapter notes, primary and secondary bibliographies, and a brief index to assist the reader in his or her own journey through this aspect of Canadian literature. However, it must be noted that these waters have been navigated before. John Moss in Patterns of Isolation (McClelland and Stewart, 1974) and D.L. Jones in Butterfly on Rock (University of Toronto Press, 1970) are but two who have made these explorations within the past fifteen years. Perhaps it is now time for Canadian criticism to proceed from the exilic, isolationist premise to a more mature acceptance of nation and nationality. Somewhat recommended for a select readership.

Ruth Cosstick, Ottawa, Ont.
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