“The White Bone is an attempt, however presumptuous, to make a huge imaginative leap — to imagine what it would be like to be that big and gentle, to be that imperiled, and to have that prodigious a memory. It may well be true, by the way, that elephants never forget.” – Barbara Gowdy
Gowdy argues that, if animals have emotions and consciousness (and ethological research confirms this), then animals likely have stories.The White Bone tells the story of Mud, a young orphaned elephant, and her adoptive family as they roam sub-Saharan Africa in search of the “Safe Place,” free from human violence. Mistakenly grouped with works such as Animal Farm, Gowdy’s story sharply departs from the fabulist tradition, which uses animal behaviour to highlight human folly. Instead, in this unusual piece of adult fiction, Gowdy draws upon her extensive research on elephants to construct a narrative from their perspectives. Tender, yet unsentimental, the result is a text that both compels and shocks.
In our conversation, prized Canadian author Barbara Gowdy shares the motivations and techniques involved in writing such a startling book. Tune in to hear one of Canada’s most prized writers discuss literature, ethics, and the animals who inspire her.
Gowdy is an award-winning author whose previous books include The Romantic, The White Bone, Mister Sandman, We So Seldom Look on Love, Falling Angels, and most recently, Helpless. In 1996, she won the Marian Engel Award. She has been a finalist for the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize and a repeat finalist for the Giller Prize, the Governor General’s Award, the Trillium Award and the Rogers Writers’ Trust Fiction prize.
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