An Amazon.ca Editors’ Pick for 2012 and a Globe and Mail Top 100 Book of 2012
Shortlisted, Governor General’s Award for Non-Fiction, John W. Dafoe Book Prize, and Shaughnessy Cohen Prize for Political Writing
Longlisted, Charles Taylor Prize for Literary Non-Fiction
In the last decade, Canada’s operative myth of a peacekeeping nation has been replaced by that of a “warrior” nation. With it, the idea of the Canadian soldier as peacekeeper has been transformed into the Canadian solider as confident and able war-maker.
In this provocative book, an expanded version his Antonine Maillet-Northrop Frye Lecture, Noah Richler examines how the narrative used by those in politics and the media has evolved from the complex structure of the novel to an epic narrative form. This form and the associated jargon (victory, defeat, heroes, sacrifice) have populated public pronouncements and media coverage, resulting in a re-interpretation of past events. Our changing narrative about war speaks volumes about our collective consciousness and where we place ourselves as a nation as we enter, sustain, discuss, and ultimately justify our participation in war.
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About the Author
What People are Saying About This
"This is a book of enormous erudition. I am stunned by Richler's courage and insight. He dares to take on the pathology orchestrated by the military apologists in our political, academic and media establishment; debunking it, dismembering it, eviscerating it. Rarely does someone of letters take on such a subject and convey the argument with such force and clarity. There's no question that the apologists will have exquisite apoplexy, but surely that's the ultimate tribute. The rest of us will exult in his embrace of the values of peace and decency, in a Canada that once was and might yet be again." Stephen Lewis, former Canadian Ambassador to the U.N.
"Since May 2nd, 2011, Canadians have watched their country swerve from the middle lane to the far right. A country once proud of its role as a peace-making moderate is being reconstructed as a Canada defined by war, violence and death. Noah Richler has taken the trouble to tell us why Canadians should worry." Desmond Morton, author of Who Speaks for Canada?
"Well-written and passionate, this is a fine polemic about important issues. You don't have to agree with everything Noah Richler says I don't but you must take him seriously." Margaret MacMillan, author of Paris 1919
"In a way that is utterly free of jingoism, What We Talk About When We Talk About War demonstrates that the rabid outpourings of the mid-war years in Afghanistan have been blown away in a gust of Arctic air. A tonic to the spirit, Richler's book explores the rootedness of Canadian values and connects them to the experience of life in an enormous and damn lucky country." James Laxer, author of Tecumseh and Brock
"Noah Richler has written an important book of great clarity, insight and courage. Like George Grant's classic Lament for a Nation, it ranges from politics to philosophy, from literature to the mass media, in support of an intelligent, passionate and highly articulate argument. What We Talk About When We Talk About War deserves to be read and discussed in every political office, classroom, book club and legion hall in the country." Ron Graham, author of The Last Act
"Noah Richler's important book reminds us why it is essential that we question the motives of military missions bathed in slogans. What We Talk About When We Talk About War provides a thorough analysis of our country's myths of combat and of peace and, separating rhetoric from truth, incisively exposes the key players bent on convincing us of the merits of a just' war." Amy Millan, author of Masters of the Burial
"A timely and thought-provoking examination of how we, as a nation, have allowed our perception of ourselves to be changed from peacekeepers to warriors, how the real-life experiences of the monstrous brutality of World War I have become the nation-building myth of today, and how our preference for 'peace, order and good government' has graduated to a willingness to die for the sake of a greater cause. Richler urges us not to ignore these major, unexamined changes in the Canadian narrative lest we are redefined into a people we have never wished to be." Anna Porter, author of The Ghosts of Europe
"The questions Noah Richler's What We Talk About When We Talk About War poses resonate deeply, and while I may not agree with some of his conclusions, Richler offers a compelling perspective and unearths a treasure chest of sources, references and incidents that will richly enhance anybody's quest to affirm what being Canadian really means. This book is a must-read for the aspiring military professional and every citizen who is concerned about perpetuating into the twenty-first century what we understand to be the Canadian Way." Lt.-Col. (ret) Patrick B. Stogran, PPCLI, Veterans's Ombudsman 2007-2010