Douglas & McIntyre
Conversations with a Dead Man

Book details:

November 2013
ISBN 978-1-55365-609-8
Hardcover
6" x 9"
264 pages
Biography & Autobiography / Historical BIO006000
$32.95 CAD

Douglas & McIntyre

Conversations with a Dead Man

The Legacy of Duncan Campbell Scott

A major new book about the life and ongoing impact of the controversial figure, Duncan Campbell Scott.


“Mark Abley has undertaken a daunting task: reconciling the Duncan Campbell Scott whose pen inscribed the cultures of Canada’s First Nations in justly celebrated verse, and the same Duncan Campbell Scott who, as the overseer of residential schools and head of Indian Affairs, attempted to erase those same cultures from the pages of history. Abley, a fine poet himself, turns Scott, the bogeyman, into a man of flesh-and-blood, by—in a fine twist—making him into a revenant to be grappled with in regular visitations. The conceit works admirably. Reading Conversations with a Dead Man, I felt as if I had been waylaid, not by a dour Ottawa bureaucrat, by an Ancient Mariner with the most urgent of tales to tell.” —Taras Grescoe, author of Bottomfeeder and Straphanger

“As Canadian biography deepens as a form, it will need books as intrepid, incisive, and compassionate, as this one, and before long Conversations with a Dead Man may be seen as pioneering.” —Charles Foran, author of Mordecai

As a poet and citizen deeply concerned by the Oka Crisis, the Idle No More protests and Canada’s ongoing failure to resolve First Nations issues, Montreal author Mark Abley has long been haunted by the figure of Duncan Campbell Scott, known both as the architect of Canada’s most destructive Aboriginal policies and as one of the nation’s major poets. Who was this enigmatic figure who could compose a sonnet to an “Onondaga Madonna” one moment and promote a “final solution” to the “Indian problem” the next? In this passionate, intelligent and highly readable enquiry into the state of Canada’s troubled Aboriginal relations, Abley alternates between analysis of current events and an imagined debate with the spirit of Duncan Campbell Scott, whose defence of the Indian Residential School and belief in assimilation illuminate the historical roots underlying today’s First Nations’ struggles.

About the Author

Mark Abley

Mark Abley grew up in Ontario, Alberta and Saskatchewan. He studied literature at the University of Saskatchewan and, after winning a Rhodes Scholarship, ...

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