Alistair MacLeod's stories, collected in The Lost Salt Gift of Blood (1976) and As Birds Bring Forth the Sun and Other Stories (1986), outline the folkways, socioeconomic realities and relationships of family and community in Cape Breton against the mythic backdrop of natural cycles. Several narratives involve the initiation of a child or young man into the knowledge of tragedy and the vanity of human aspirations. Others trace the pattern of exile and return in the lives of Cape Bretoners who yearn to escape their impoverished home but find themselves irresistibly drawn back, either in actuality or imagination. His work explores characters' historic and geographic ties to a homeland; many of the stories are about the Highland Scots people of Cape Breton who have preserved highland traditions and the Gaelic language for almost 200 years.
Alistair MacLeod pursues these themes at greater length in his first novel, No Great Mischief (1999), in which the novel's narrator, Alexander MacDonald, outlines the history of his family from its 18th-century emigration from Scotland to Nova Scotia until the 1980s. The novel was nominated for all Canada's major literary awards, and won the 2001 International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award.
In 2000 the author's short stories were collected in a single volume, Island: The Collected Stories, to which two new stories were added. The new, title story introduces Alistair MacLeod's first female protagonist, who is the last of her family to run the lighthouse two miles from the island. It continues Alistair MacLeod's unsentimental portrayal of the cultural decline of Nova Scotia. This was followed by To Everything There Is a Season: A Cape Breton Christmas Story (2004), an illustrated Christmas story.
Alistair MacLeod is the subject of a NATIONAL FILM BOARD documentary, Reading Alistair MacLeod (2005), which explores his life in interview with him, his family and admirers such as Margaret ATWOOD and Colm Toibin.
In 2008 Alistair MacLeod was appointed an Officer of the Order of Canada in recognition of his commitment to Canadian literature and influence on other Canadian authors.
Author COLIN BOYD
Links to Other Sites
Read January Magazine’s review of the author’s debut novel, “No Great Mischief.”
Shawnadithit grew anxious waiting for her uncle, Longnon, to return to camp at the junction of Badger Brook and the Exploits River, deep in the wilds of Newfoundland...