Searching Meditation on Canada's Past, Future

Winnipeg Free Press, January 19, 2013 | Go to article overview

Searching Meditation on Canada's Past, Future


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. …

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