Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Searching meditation on Canada's past, future

  • Print

Canada

Tomorrow's Giant

By Bruce Hutchison

Oxford University Press, 325 pages, $22

EVERY once in a while, it is a tonic to immerse one's self in pure Canadiana.

And one can't get more Canadian than this account of a cross-Canada trip, undertaken in 1955, by the late Canadian journalist Bruce Hutchison.

Hutchison's account of his travels across Canada, from Newfoundland to British Columbia, was originally published in 1957, won a Governor General's Award for Creative Non-fiction and is now reissued by Oxford University Press as part of a series of significant titles of Canadian literature, thought and scholarship.

Hutchison served as editor of the Victoria Times and editorial director of the Vancouver Sun; his column regularly appeared in the Winnipeg Free Press, for which he worked early in his career.

This entertaining narrative is a pleasure to read.

Hutchison depicts the impact on Canadian life and environment of what he calls the "Canadian revolution" -- the transition from an agricultural to an industrial economy, a process that was well underway by the mid-20th century.

Hutchison comments on the tendency of industrial civilization to promote uniformity and conformity, and wonders if Canada's particular regional cultures -- especially Quebec and the Maritimes -- will survive industrialization.

In these speculations he anticipates the work of the Canadian philosopher George Grant, who wrote about the homogenizing influence of technology.

Hutchison identifies a collective Canadian consciousness, an ancestral memory, which he evokes in the prose poems that precede every chapter. He writes stirringly, for example, about the lonely sound of a freight-train's whistle in a prairie night.

Readers of the Winnipeg Free Press will be particularly interested in Hutchison's comments about Winnipeg, which he describes as "the hub and crossroads of Canada, the beating pulse, the very heart, halfway between the oceans."

He mixes praise and criticism. He says that Winnipeg is "our strongest and most coherent Canadian community." It is, moreover, "Canada's most democratic town."

However, he says that he detests "the outside look, the flat terrain and cruel climate of Winnipeg." Indeed, "not many Canadians are strong enough to sustain its climate."

For Hutchison, Winnipeg is one of Canada's least provincial cities. As a centre of the grain trade, it must be aware of political and economic conditions throughout the globe.

Finally, Hutchison articulates a tension in the Canadian mind that shaped Canadian society well into the 20th century -- the tension between history and geography. History links Canada to Britain, while geography draws it to America. Canada is defined by this "mixture of memory and environment."

This book is more than a period piece, more than a travelogue. It is a searching, beautifully rendered meditation on Canada's past and future.

Hutchison penetrates to the essence of what it means to be Canadian, probably as well as has ever been done. This is Canadiana at its best.

Graeme Voyer is a Winnipeg writer.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition January 19, 2013 J8

Fact Check

Fact Check

Have you found an error, or know of something we’ve missed in one of our stories?
Please use the form below and let us know.

* Required
  • Please post the headline of the story or the title of the video with the error.

  • Please post exactly what was wrong with the story.

  • Please indicate your source for the correct information.

  • Yes

    No

  • This will only be used to contact you if we have a question about your submission, it will not be used to identify you or be published.

  • Cancel

Having problems with the form?

Contact Us Directly
  • Print

You can comment on most stories on winnipegfreepress.com. You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

You can comment on most stories on winnipegfreepress.com. You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

Have Your Say

New to commenting? Check out our Frequently Asked Questions.

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscribers only. why?

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press Subscribers only. why?

The Winnipeg Free Press does not necessarily endorse any of the views posted. By submitting your comment, you agree to our Terms and Conditions. These terms were revised effective April 16, 2010.

letters

Make text: Larger | Smaller

LATEST VIDEO

Key of Bart: NDP Self-Destruction

View more like this

Photo Store Gallery

  • A  young goose stuffed with bread from  St Vital park passers-by takes a nap in the shade Thursday near lunch  –see Bryksa’s 30 day goose challenge Day 29-June 28, 2012   (JOE BRYKSA / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS)
  • Marc Gallant/Winnipeg Free Press. Local- Peregrine Falcon Recovery Project. Baby peregrine falcons. 21 days old. Three baby falcons. Born on ledge on roof of Radisson hotel on Portage Avenue. Project Coordinator Tracy Maconachie said that these are third generation falcons to call the hotel home. Maconachie banded the legs of the birds for future identification as seen on this adult bird swooping just metres above. June 16, 2004.

View More Gallery Photos

Poll

Should the federal government force band chiefs and councillors to disclose their salary information?

View Results

View Related Story

Ads by Google