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John Ralston Saul 10 August 2009




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John Ralston Saul is a very busy man. He is constantly in demand as a speaker touring Canada and abroad.

He is General Editor of the Penguin "Extraordinary Canadians" project. The series will feature inspired pairings of writers and subjects and will seek to reinterpret important Canadian figures for a contemporary audience.

In his latest book, A Fair Country: Telling Truths about Canada, Saul unveils 3 founding myths. He argues that the famous “peace, order, and good government” that supposedly defines Canada is a distortion of the country’s true nature. Every single document before the BNA Act, he points out, used the phrase “peace, welfare, and good government,” demonstrating that the well-being of its citizenry was paramount. He also argues that Canada is a Métis nation, heavily influenced and shaped by aboriginal ideas: egalitarianism, a proper balance between individual and group, and a penchant for negotiation over violence are all aboriginal values that Canada absorbed. Another obstacle to progress, Saul argues, is that Canada has an increasingly ineffective elite, a colonial non-intellectual business elite that doesn’t believe in Canada. It is critical that we recognize these aspects of the country in order to rethink its future.

He has received many national and international awards for his writing, most recently the Pablo Neruda International Presidential Medal of Honour from the Chilean government. His Massey Lectures, The Unconscious Civilization, won the 1996 Governor General’s Literary Award for Non-Fiction, as well as the Gordon Montador Award for Best Canadian Book on Social Issues. His reinterpretation of the nature of Canada, Reflections of a Siamese Twin, also won a Montador Award and was chosen by Maclean’s as one of the ten best non-fiction books of the twentieth century.

Saul is best known for his philosophical trilogy – Voltaire’s Bastards: The Dictatorship of Reason in the West , The Doubter’s Companion: A Dictionary of Aggressive Common Sense and The Unconscious Civilization. This was followed by a meditation on the trilogy – On Equilibrium: Six Qualities of the New Humanism. His reinterpretation of the nature of Canada – Reflections of a Siamese Twin (1997) –was a groundbreaking reassessment of Canada and launched a national debate.

He has published five novels, including The Birds of Prey, an international best seller, as well as The Field Trilogy, which deals with the crisis of modern power and its clash with the individual. It includes Baraka or The Lives, Fortunes and Sacred Honor of Anthony Smith, The Next Best Thing , and The Paradise Eater, which won the prestigious Premio Lettarario Internazionale in Italy. De Si Bons Americains is a picaresque novel in which he observes the life of modern nouveaux riches Americans.

He is particularly known for his commentaries on the nature of individualism, citizenship and the public good; the failures of managerially/technocratically led societies; the confusion between leadership and managerialism; military strategy, in particular irregular warfare; the role of freedom of speech and culture; and his critique of contemporary economic arguments.

On Monday 10 August at 2 pm John Ralston Saul, known as “ Canada’s Leading Public Intellectual” will speak at the Charles W. Stockey Centre.

Tickets are $12 each, available at Parry Sound Books  746-7625, and The Charles W. Stockey Centre 746-4466


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