Margaret Atwood: CanCon Queen

March 13, 2014 § Leave a comment

Last weekend, I read Margaret Atwood’s The Year of the Flood, the second of her dystopian trilogy (Oryx & Crake is the first part and MaddAddam is part three).  I mentioned Oryx & Crake briefly in my post in January about my 2013 reading.  There I noted I’ve never been an Atwood fan.  But this trilogy is making me re-think my position.  I spent a lot of time with both Oryx & Crake and The Year of the Flood simply overwhelmed with the world Atwood has created for this trilogy.  I can see influences from outside sources, and with her previous fascinations with dystopia, most notably in The Handmaid’s Tale, but mostly I’m just impressed that Atwood could invent this alternate universe.

At any rate. Throughout The Year of the Flood, I appreciated reading a Canadian author, maybe out of a sense of missing home, or maybe just enjoying Atwood’s sly humour.  The religious cult that is at the centre of this book, God’s Gardeners, have sanctified various ecologists, biologists, zoologists, and others who worked to protect the animals and the environment.  God’s Gardeners are a pacifist, vegan sect who believe in the sanctity of all life, incorporating various aspects of Christianity, Buddhism, and the scientific revolution into their belief systems.   When Adam One, the leader of God’s Gardeners gives a speech for the Feast of Saint Dian Fossey, Atwood slyly slips in Canadian content:

Today is Saint Dian’s Day, consecrated to interspecies empathy.  On this day, we invoke Saint Jerome of Lions, Saint Robert Brown of Mice, and Saint Christopher Smart of Cats; also Saint Farley Mowat of Wolves, and the Ikhwan al-Safa and their Letter of the Animals.  But especially Saint Dian Fossey, who gave her life while defending the Gorillas from ruthless exploitation.  She laboured for a Peaceable Kingdom, in which all Life would be respected.

“Saint” Farley Mowat is one of Canada’s best-loved authors, at least he used to be.  He’s still kicking around at age 92, but he reached the pinnacle of his fame in the 1950s, 60s, and 70s.  He is most known for his work on the Inuit of the Canadian Arctic and the wolves of the Canadian tundra.  For me, though, he is the author of the children’s lit Canadian classic, The Dog Who Wouldn’t Be.  I loved that book when I was a child.

The “peaceable kingdom,” is a biblical reference, yes.  But it is also a reference to Canada, the land of “peace, order, and good government,” according to the Constitution (though the latter has been lacking since January 2006).


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