WINDSOR, ONT. - Alistair MacLeod, the Prairie-born author who won one of the world‚Äôs most lucrative literary prizes with his only novel, has died. He was 77.
© The Canadian Press
Author Alistair MacLeod is shown in a ahndout photo. MacLeod was just a kid during the Second World War, so his biggest memories of it are seeing "an awful lot of people in the army" in his hometown of Cape Breton."
MacLeod was known for his short stories and his novel ‚ÄúNo Great Mischief,‚ÄĚ winner of the 2001 IMPAC Dublin Literary Award, then worth $172,000.
MacLeod‚Äôs former publisher, Doug Gibson, confirmed the death on Sunday.
He said MacLeod had been in hospital ever since suffering a stroke in January.
Gibson said MacLeod was ‚Äúthat rare combination of great writer and a great man.‚ÄĚ
Born in North Battleford, Sask., on July 20, 1936, MacLeod moved with his family back to a farm on Cape Breton Island at the age of 10. It was there that the images and themes that informed his work took hold.
‚ÄúWhen I sit down to write, the images and the details and the issues that come to my mind are those of Cape Breton,‚ÄĚ he said in May 2009 in a conversation with fellow writer Nino Ricci at the University of Toronto.
‚ÄúI think (for) some writers, associations with their material and maybe their place is something like maybe love.‚ÄĚ
‚ÄúNo Great Mischief,‚ÄĚ published in 1999, became an immediate critical success, winning the IMPAC as well as Ontario‚Äôs Trillium Prize. Ten years later it was recognized as Atlantic Canada‚Äôs best book in the 2009 survey ‚ÄúAtlantic Canada‚Äôs 100 Greatest Books.‚ÄĚ
The novel‚Äôs narrator, Alexander MacDonald, tells of a family‚Äôs life beginning in 18th-century Scotland and ending in 20th-century Nova Scotia.
In ‚ÄúAlistair MacLeod, Essays on his Works,‚ÄĚ Irene Guilford notes that while intense in his devotion to locale, the author‚Äôs treatment of human questions was universal.
‚ÄúThis is writing that nudges one towards that most complex and wondrous state of being ‚ÄĒ an individual rooted in personal history and locale, connected to the past but also a citizen of the world, a person who would try to understand why Zulus dance,‚ÄĚ she writes in her introduction.
‚ÄúWhere do we come from? Alistair MacLeod‚Äôs birthplace is Canadian, his emotional heartland is Cape Breton, his heritage Scottish, but his writing is of the world.‚ÄĚ
MacLeod taught English and creative writing at the University of Windsor, where he also edited the University of Windsor Review. He and his wife, Anita, raised six children in Windsor.
But each summer, he returned to Cape Breton and the cliff-top cabin where he did much of his writing.
He was the subject of a National Film Board documentary in 2005, ‚ÄúReading Alistair MacLeod,‚ÄĚ and in 2008 was made an officer of the Order of Canada.
MacLeod received his PhD from the University of Notre Dame but did his undergraduate degree closer to home at St. Francis Xavier University and his MA at the University of New Brunswick.
He wrote his first short story, ‚ÄúThe Boat,‚ÄĚ in 1968.
MacLeod‚Äôs published works include the short story collections ‚ÄúThe Lost Salt Gift of Blood‚ÄĚ (1976), ‚ÄúAs Birds Bring Forth the Sun and Other Stories‚ÄĚ (1986), and ‚ÄúIsland‚ÄĚ (2000), which combined the first two collections with other stories.