Of This Earth: A Mennonite Boyhood In The Boreal Forest

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Of This Earth: A Mennonite Boyhood In The Boreal Forest

by Rudy Wiebe

February 6, 2007 | Trade Paperback

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A beautiful, moving memoir of a boy’s coming of age, infused with a deep love of the land, from one of Canada’s most cherished and acclaimed writers.

In Of This Earth, Rudy Wiebe gives vivid life again to the vanished world of Speedwell, Saskatchewan, an isolated, poplar-forested, mostly Mennonite community – and Rudy’s first home. Too young to do heavy work, Rudy witnessed a way of life that was soon to disappear. And we experience with him the hard labour of clearing the stony, silty bushland; the digging out of precious wells one bucket of dirt at a time; sorrow at the death of a beloved sister; the disorienting searches for grazing cattle in the vast wilderness sloughs and the sweet discovery of the power of reading.

Rare personal photographs (reproduced throughout the book) and the fragile memories of those who are left give shape to the story of Mennonite immigrants building a life in Canada, the growth and decline of the small Speedwell community, the sway of religion, and a young boy’s growing love of the extreme beauty of the aspen forests – as well as how all these elements came to inform his destiny as a writer.

A hymn to a lost place and a distant time, Of This Earth follows the best of memoirs in the tradition of Sharon Butala’s The Perfection of the Morning and W. G. Sebald’s Austerlitz. It is an evocation of the Canadian west that only a writer of Rudy Wiebe’s powers could summon.


From the Hardcover edition.

Format: Trade Paperback

Dimensions: 416 pages, 7.95 × 5.2 × 0.85 in

Published: February 6, 2007

Language: English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10: 0676977537

ISBN - 13: 9780676977530

Found in: History

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– More About This Product –

Of This Earth: A Mennonite Boyhood In The Boreal Forest

by Rudy Wiebe

Format: Trade Paperback

Dimensions: 416 pages, 7.95 × 5.2 × 0.85 in

Published: February 6, 2007

Language: English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10: 0676977537

ISBN - 13: 9780676977530

Read from the Book

Prologue “Nu es et Tiet,” my mother would say in the Russian Mennonite Low German our family always spoke together. Now it is time. And my father would get up to wrap his bare feet in footcloths and pull on his felt boots with rubbers over them, hook his heavy mackinaw and fur cap off the pegs by the door and go outside with the neighbour we were visiting. They would lead Prince and Jerry out of the barn and hitch them to our bobsled and we would drive home to a rhythm of harness bells, always, as I remember it, in blue darkness and covered by blankets and stiff cowhide in the ­sledbox. We are travelling between winter poplars, momentarily open fields, along massive black walls of spruce; the horses feeling in the snow the trail of their own hoofprints home like the narrow path of sky above us, bright heaven sprinkled with light but sometimes, abruptly, flaming out like an exploded sun, a shower of fire and frightening until it swims away into waves fading out in rainbows: there, God lives in such light eternally and so far away I may never get there beyond the stars. Though my mother certainly will, and also, perhaps, my ­father. They are singing. My father’s favourite hymn, which they have carried with them from their Mennonite villages on the steppes of Ukraine and Russia to sing in Saskatchewan’s boreal ­forest: Hier auf Erden bin ich ein Pilger, Und mein Pilgern, und mein Pilgern währt nicht ­lang. . . . Here on earth I am
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From the Publisher

A beautiful, moving memoir of a boy’s coming of age, infused with a deep love of the land, from one of Canada’s most cherished and acclaimed writers.

In Of This Earth, Rudy Wiebe gives vivid life again to the vanished world of Speedwell, Saskatchewan, an isolated, poplar-forested, mostly Mennonite community – and Rudy’s first home. Too young to do heavy work, Rudy witnessed a way of life that was soon to disappear. And we experience with him the hard labour of clearing the stony, silty bushland; the digging out of precious wells one bucket of dirt at a time; sorrow at the death of a beloved sister; the disorienting searches for grazing cattle in the vast wilderness sloughs and the sweet discovery of the power of reading.

Rare personal photographs (reproduced throughout the book) and the fragile memories of those who are left give shape to the story of Mennonite immigrants building a life in Canada, the growth and decline of the small Speedwell community, the sway of religion, and a young boy’s growing love of the extreme beauty of the aspen forests – as well as how all these elements came to inform his destiny as a writer.

A hymn to a lost place and a distant time, Of This Earth follows the best of memoirs in the tradition of Sharon Butala’s The Perfection of the Morning and W. G. Sebald’s Austerlitz. It is an evocation of the Canadian west that only a writer of Rudy Wiebe’s powers could summon.


From the Hardcover edition.

From the Jacket

“A remarkable insider’s view of Canada’s own Grapes of Wrath-like internal migration during the Dirty Thirties, and the way it transformed a ‘bushyard bumpkin’ into Western Canada’s most iconic novelist. . . .Vigorous . . . vivid. . . .Of This Earth is a wonderful gift to patient readers who delight in remembering times soo lang tridj, daut es meist nijch meea soo (so long ago, it is almost no longer so.)”
—The Globe and Mail

“Wiebe is one of Canada’s most prolific and most esteemed writers. . . . The poetic memoir traces both the growth of a young man and the growth of a writer.”
—The Record (Kitchener-Waterloo)

“When he sets words to image, Cornelius Krieghoff-like masterpieces emerge.”
—The Gazette (Montreal)

“Wiebe wields the disparate funny, sad and messy facts of his Depression-era rural-Saskatchewan childhood in an engrossing way. He packs in the detail, but keeps the narrative moving. Of This Earth is a fine memoir.”
—Winnipeg Free Press

“The genius of Wiebe’s writing [is his] ability to take what is a single event in a community’s life, relate it to the world at large, and make it as personal as is possible.”
—Calgary Herald

“It is safe to predict that Of This Earth will become a classic, and shows Wiebe at his best: clear-eyed, wise and with a writing style that’s as vigorous as it is evocative. . . . This one may well be his masterpiece. . . . There is a profound depth of memory in the book.”
—Edmonton Journal (profile)

“In Of This Earth, Rudy Wiebe tells the story of his early years in Speedwell, Sask., and he tells it in prose of striking beauty and simplicity. . . . It is a lovely book, and I would not be at all surprised if in years to come it emerges as a classic of growing up in the Canadian West. . . . unforgettable, heartbreaking . . . . Of This Earth may remind the reader . . . of the autobiographies of Tolstoy and Herzen . . . in their mix of the elemental, the serene and the wondrous. Those works are among the masterpieces of autobiography, and Wiebe’s work stands close beside them.”
—Edmonton Journal (review)

Praise for Sweeter than All the World:

• NATIONAL BESTSELLER

“One of Canada’s most gifted writers – a peerless delineator of his country’s history and soul.”
–Canadian Jewish News

“Rudy Wiebe has written his epic. . . . Richly satisfying and worth reading and pondering again and again.”
–Kitchener-Waterloo Record

“Wiebe succeeds in making [history] dramatic, intriguing, romantic and tragic.”
–Calgary Herald


From the Hardcover edition.

About the Author

Rudy Wiebe was born on October 4, 1934, in an isolated farm community of about 250 people in a rugged but lovely region near Fairholme, Saskatchewan. His parents had escaped Soviet Russia with five children in 1930, part of the last generation of homesteaders to settle the Canadian West, and part of a Mennonite history of displacement and emigration through Europe and Asia to North and South America since the seventeenth century. In 1947 his family gave up their bush farm and moved to Coaldale, Alberta, a town east of Lethbridge peopled largely by Ukrainians, Mennonites, Mormons, and Central Europeans, as well as Japanese, who ended up there during WW II. Rudy Wiebe read as much as possible from an early age; his first reading materials were the Bible, the Eaton''s catalogue and the Free Press Weekly Prairie Farmer ; he also recalls listening to his parents’ stories of Russia. By Grade 4, he had read through the two shelves of books available in the one-room schoolhouse. Growing up, he enjoyed Les Miserables, Toilers of the Sea, David Copperfield, Tom Brown''s Schooldays , Greek myths and Norse legends. Later an admirer of Faulkner, Márquez, Borges and Tolstoy, Wiebe has always held to the fundamentals of plot, character and, above all, story. He believes stories should begin in the specific and local but expand into “a human truth larger than any individual.” Wiebe won his first prize for fiction while studying literature at the University of Alberta,
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Editorial Reviews

“A remarkable insider’s view of Canada’s own Grapes of Wrath -like internal migration during the Dirty Thirties, and the way it transformed a ‘bushyard bumpkin’ into Western Canada’s most iconic novelist. . . .Vigorous . . . vivid. . . . Of This Earth is a wonderful gift to patient readers who delight in remembering times soo lang tridj, daut es meist nijch meea soo (so long ago, it is almost no longer so.)” — The Globe and Mail “Wiebe is one of Canada’s most prolific and most esteemed writers. . . . The poetic memoir traces both the growth of a young man and the growth of a writer.” — The Record (Kitchener-Waterloo) “When he sets words to image, Cornelius Krieghoff-like masterpieces emerge.” — The Gazette (Montreal) “Wiebe wields the disparate funny, sad and messy facts of his Depression-era rural-Saskatchewan childhood in an engrossing way. He packs in the detail, but keeps the narrative moving. Of This Earth is a fine memoir.” — Winnipeg Free Press “The genius of Wiebe’s writing [is his] ability to take what is a single event in a community’s life, relate it to the world at large, and make it as personal as is possible.” — Calgary Herald “It is safe to predict that Of This Earth will become a classic, and shows Wiebe at his best: clear-eyed, wise and with a writing style that’s as vigorous as it is evocative. . . . This one m
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