Canada did not fight in the Vietnam War, but the conflict seized the Canadian imagination with an energy that has persisted. In War Is Here Robert McGill explains how the war contributed to a golden age for writing in Canada. As authors addressed the conflict, they helped to construct an enduring myth of Canada as liberal, hospitable, and humanitarian. For many writers, the war was one that Canadians could and should fight against, if not in person, then on the page. In this pioneering account of war-related Canadian literature McGill observes how celebrated books of the era channel Vietnam, sometimes in subtle but pervasive ways. He examines authors’ attempts to educate their readers about American imperialism and Canadian complicity, and he discusses how writers repeatedly used language evoking militarism and violence – from the figure of the United States as a rapist to the notion of Canada as a “peaceable kingdom” – in order to make Canadians feel more intensely about their country. McGill also addresses the recent spate of prize-winning Canadian novels about the war that have renewed Vietnam’s resonance in the wake of twenty-first century conflicts involving America. War Is Here vividly revisits a galvanizing time in world history and Canadian life, offering vital insights into the Vietnam War’s influence on how people think about Canada, its place in the world, and the power of the written word to make a difference.
Robert McGill is a novelist and associate professor of English at the University of Toronto.
“A crucial primer, not only on the political and aesthetic nuances that distinguish Canadian and American literatures and societies, but also on how Canadians have historically reacted to crises linked to American militarism and racism. War Is Here connects a thousand dots in the existing criticism and will serve as the bedrock for future studies in the field.” Ian Rae, King’s University College, Western University