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Over Canadian Trails


New Letters and Documents

F.P. Grove, Over Canadian Trails. New Letters and Documents.  Selected and edited by Klaus Martens.  Würzburg: Königshausen & Neumann, 2007.  666 p. / 609 illustrations.  Euro 56.00.

Often pushed aside in recent compilations of Canadian literary history, Frederick Philip Grove, as the first Canadian writer of intercultural significance, needs now to be re-introduced as an intriguing avant-garde author and as a figure central to the inception of modern Canadian literature after the Great War.

In support of this claim, Over Canadian Trails presents many previously unpublished letters and documents by Grove and his most important Canadian and European correspondents. In addition, a wealth of other papers, contemporaneous documentation, and many photos and other illustrations cast new light on his life and career and provide as fully rounded a picture of the man and author as possible. This documentary approach has been tested in Klaus Martens’ previous Grove publications, Felix Paul Greves Karriere: Frederick Philip Grove in Deutschland (St. Ingbert: Röhrig Universitätsverlag, 1997), "Je vous écris, en hâte et fiévreusement:" Felix Paul Greve-André Gide. Korrespondenz und Dokumentation (with Jutta Ernst, St. Ingbert: Röhrig Universitätsverlag, 1999), F.P. Grove in Europe and Canada: Translated Lives (Edmonton: U of Alberta P, 2001), and most recently expanded on in A Dirge for My Daughter. Poems (Würzburg: Königshausen and Neumann, 2006). Martens’ analysis and commentary are supplemented by passages from work by Grove and some of his contemporaries, writers and critics alike.

Over Canadian Trails tells three interlocking stories: First, in a nut-shell, the story of Grove’s personal struggles and accomplished literary past in Europe. Second, the odyssey of the teacher through the small towns and the lonely villages of pioneer Manitoba and his struggles as a Canadian writer and dedicated family man. Third, the story of Canada’s literary and cultural development in the 1920s to 1940s told, for the first time, in the form of lively epistolary exchanges between the principals involved. An epilogue includes a short evaluation of Grove’s place in Canadian letters and a review of recent criticism.

Now spanning Grove’s career as a Canadian writer almost from the beginning, the new correspondence and other texts included in Over Canadian Trails add an important, often warmly personal and humorous, surprisingly new dimension to the story of the making of Grove as a Canadian writer and the making of a Canadian national literature.