1997 Published in Australia, Canada (English), Canada (French),


In a startling exercise of reorientation, John Ralston Saul excavates our Canadian myths – real, false, and denied – and reconciles them with the reality of today’s politics, culture and economics. He attacks the denial of place into which our urban centres have fallen, delineates the dramatic differences between positive and negative nationalism, probes the implications of continuing decentralization and decries the shift in focus from the public good to narrow interest groups. He proposes solutions to our mid-life crisis in social policy by reminding us of the extent to which reconciliation and reform have always been, and remain, at the core of the country’s creation and survival.


By building his reflections on the words of our novelists, poets, historians, songwriters, philosophers, painters and our most creative political figures over the centuries, Saul uncovers the startling shape of the Canadian experiment. With a balance of realism and optimism he convinces us that a country which is first an idea of a country is not a theoretical or utopian ideal.


Winnipeg Free Press

“[Saul] is not a man of timid or partial judgments. He is instead bold, direct and imaginative.”

The Vancouver Sun

“Thank God for John Ralston Saul. At least Canada has one leading intellectual unafraid to challenge the negative nationalism and feeble orthodoxies that seem to consume our elites.”

The Sunday Daily News (Halifax)

“Saul has crafted an original and breathtaking analysis of Canadian political history. Every thinking Canadian…must read it.”

The Globe and Mail (Toronto)

“Saul’s is a sweeping, deeply thoughtful and highly original meditation on Canada – a startling book.”

The Gazette (Montréal)

“A powerful stimulant to revive a country sleep-walking into dependence or disintegration. And that is no small thing.”

The Edmonton Journal

“This weighty, worrying, often lyrical and ultimately very enriching volume takes in the whole scope of history, politics and culture – real and mythologized.”

Maclean’s (Toronto)

“John Ralston Saul can claim shelf space with such seminal thinkers as Harold Innis, Marshall McLuhan and George Grant.”