Celebrating the work of a Canadian literary icon

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Filed under Library News:  Archives & Research Collections Events
This image depicts some of the texts, manuscripts, photos and artwork that are contained in the Farley Mowat archive.

“He was Canada’s best story-teller.”

That’s how Anna Porter, co-founder and publisher of Key Porter books, recalled the late Farley Mowat at a recent reception that paid tribute to the work and life of one Canada’s most distinctive and iconic writers.

The event highlighted Mowat’s extensive personal and literary archives, housed in McMaster University Library’s William Ready Division of Archives and Research Collections.

“He was a very serious, thoughtful writer with a commitment to honing methods of telling stories that were designed to grab reader’s attention,” said Porter, also a long-time personal friend of Mowat.

Mowat was best-known for his literary depictions of the Canadian arctic, famously recounted in Canadian classics such as “Never Cry Wolf” and “People of the Deer.”

Mowat first began depositing his archives in 1970, while sill in the prime of his writing career.

Over the past 45 years, the collection has grown significantly, and is now made up of 350 boxes of textual records, manuscripts, research materials, correspondence, financial documents, photographs, maps, audio reels and videocassettes and more materials still to come.

“It is my great honour to join in this celebration of the life and work of Farley Mowat – one of Canada’s great storytellers and, one of the true iconic figures of this country and its fine literary traditions,” says Vivian Lewis, McMaster University Librarian. “He challenged us as a society and as a reading public. McMaster University Library is proud to be the custodian of his rich archive.”

In attendance was Farley’s widow Claire Mowat, a writer and visual artist in her own right who has also donated her archives to McMaster.

McMaster is  home to the archives of a number of Canadian literary talents including Margaret Laurence, Pierre Berton, Matt Cohen, Austin Clarke, Sylvia Fraser and Peter C. Newman, as well as Canadian publishers McClelland and Stewart, Key Porter Books, Macmillan Canada and Clarke Irwin.

“I applaud the work of the library in recent years building the archival collection. The Mowat archive is a very significant addition to that, which I think will open all kinds of possibilities for research and teaching in the years to come,” says McMaster President Patrick Deane.

Read the Hamilton Spectator article featuring Farley Mowat's archives.

Image of Hamilton Spectator article featuring the Farley Mowat archives.