The Journals of Susanna Moodie

The Journals of Susanna Moodie

Book - 1997
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The landmark collaboration of two pre-eminent Canadian artists in an attractive, affordable format. As fledgling artists in their respective fields, Margaret Atwood and Charles Pachter were enthusiastic collaborators in a unique art form, the livre d'artiste -- the marriage of original graphic work with literary text. Beginning in the mid-sixties, while both were still students, they worked together on five limited-edition handmade books, volumes of Atwood's poetry with Pachter's interpretive artwork. The culmination of their collaboration, the work that is considered their masterpiece, is The Journals of Susanna Moodie. In her reading of Susanna Moodie's chronicles of pioneer life in nineteenth-century Canada, Atwood found the haunting and timeless themes that still obsess us. The poems of The Journals of Susanna Moodie were first published in 1970 in a standard format. This sequence of poems is regarded as a classic, in addition to being connected with her later novel, Alias Grace. In 1980, Pachter was able to add his own vibrant, evocative images and create the version they had dreamt of: a hand-set, hand-printed illustrated limited edition of 120 numbered copies. This popular edition is a faithful re-creation of the original, accompanied by an introductory memoir by Pachter, describing his friendship with Atwood and the creative process behind this breathtaking work, and a foreword by David Staines, who pays homage to Atwood, Pachter, and Moodie and their central places in our art and literature.
Publisher: Toronto : Macfarlane Walter & Ross, c1997.
ISBN: 9781551990132
Branch Call Number: 819.154 Moodi -A
Characteristics: xxiii, [73] pages : illustrations (some color) ; 27 cm.
Additional Contributors: Pachter, Charles 1942-


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Dec 29, 2009

Margaret Atwood's poetic reimagining of the hardscrabble life of Susanna Moodie, a British settler who emigrated to Canada in the 1830s, is vivid unto itself. It groups Moodie's experiences into three sets of poems: the first covers her arrival in Canada and primitive subsistence on a farm near what became Peterborough, Ontario, the second covers her somewhat more civilized existence in the town of Belleville, and the third is actually a posthumous set of reflections that concludes with her spirit inhabiting that of an old woman on a bus travelling along St Clair Avenue in Toronto in the late 1960s. Throughout, Atwood gives Moodie a grittier and more emotional voice than what comes through in Moodie's prim accounts in "Roughing it in the Bush" and her subsequent memoirs.

While Atwood's poetic account of Moodie's adventures and experiences is vibrant by itself, it is further enhanced and animated by the typographic and graphical innovations of artist Charles Pachter, a longtime friend and collaborator of Atwood's. Interestingly, Atwood and Pachter originally applied for a grant in 1970 to allow him to design a special edition of the collection of poems, but the application was turned down by the Canada Council. Atwood went ahead and got the poems published by Oxford University Press, but she and Pachter held onto the hope that they could one day collaborate on a more fully realized rendition incorporating his ideas and work. Several years later, the University of Toronto Library financed a venture that saw Pachter and two Spanish master printers, Abel and Manuel Bello-Sanchez, bring Atwood's poems to life in a 120-copy limited edition that combined complex silkscreening, calligraphic and typographical effects. In the early 1980s, examples of this unique work were exhibited at the Art Gallery of Ontario and the National Gallery of Canada. By the early 1990s, it had also been translated into French.

Finally, in 1997, an edition was produced capturing the original text and graphics, with an account by Charles Pachter and a foreword by noted University of Ottawa English professor David Staines. This edition effectively encapsulates the history and collective heft of this work, and puts it in context with Staines' enthusiastic framing of the work as a uniquely Canadian livre d'artiste. Topping it all off is Pachter's ebullient account of being inspired by the genius of his friend Margaret Atwood to produce a work of genius of his own, to which the poems are inextricably linked.

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