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We Miss You Fiercely: Robert Kroetsch

Rudy Wiebe called us with terrible news this morning: Robert Kroetsch was killed in a car accident on his way home from a literary festival.

*****************

Robert has had an amazing year, replete with readings and awards, including the Lieutenant Governor’s Alberta Distinguished Artist award and the WGA Golden Pen Award (just two weeks ago).

He told Cathie that he was looking forward to his next event, a reading in Canmore for their Artspeak Festival. Knowing Robert, we’re sure he had a wonderful time.

On his return, coming through Drumheller and up Highway 21, another car T-boned the car Robert was in, on his side. Robert was killed and the other three occupants are in the hospital.

Cathie wasn’t able to make the Alberta Book Awards in Calgary two weeks ago to hear Robert accept the award in front of “his crowd,” including Rudy Wiebe, Aritha van Herk, Myrna Kostash, Geo Takach, and Merna Summers. Peter took a photo of him as they were reading comments before awarding him the Golden Pen Award.

However, the day after the Alberta Book Awards, Robert sent her an email. As usual, it was precisely worded and wonderfully kind:

We missed you fiercely.

And that’s how we will miss him.

[Photo kindly provided to UAP by photographer George Webber.]
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15 Responses

  1. Very upset to hear this news. Mr. Kroetsch has played an enormous role in my own understanding of myself as a writer, a reader, a Westerner, a Canadian. His literature opened up so many possibilities. I believe my life would be less if someone hadn’t handed me Badlands so many years ago. We owe him so much.

  2. [...] Such sad news. Robert Kroetsch, Alberta writer, alterer of the language, died in a car crash while on his way home from a literary festival in Canmore. Read about it on the University of Alberta Press’s blog. [...]

  3. He told me to believe in my voice and to keep writing my stories. I think of him often. In fact today he crossed my mind before I heard the sad news.

  4. My heart goes out to the Kroetsch family; my thoughts and prayers are with them. Robert was a very dear friend to my family. His kindness, his love, his sense of humor, his jokes & his zest for life will never be forgotten. Rocio Avila-Wiebe, granddaughter of Rudy Wiebe

  5. Dr. Kroetsch was an excellent teacher who taught by letting his students unlayer the text under his thoughtful watch. He became my advisor and I enjoyed his exploration of Patrick White’s work , a new author for him, as I wrote my Master’s thesis. Under his tutelage, I became a myth critic. “Goodnight sweet prince: And flights of angels sing thee to thy rest.”

  6. I am utterly bereft at this suddenness – Robert joined us fellow artsPeak writers Tuesday morning for greasy spoon breakfast, along with sweet Italian Ph.D student, Roberta. She was interested in the idea of place, and together they were going off to visit places that held meaning in his life and work. Goddamn you Alberta country road for taking him.

  7. Terrible news. Robert Kroetsch touched my life so deeply, his influence reverberates in my work to this day. We all owe him so much.

    Moti Shojania
    University of Manitoba

  8. I am saddened to hear that this Canadian literary giant has died so suddenly. His legacy will remain to inspire younger writers. The whole literary community in Alberta and Canada and beyond grieves his loss. Susan McCaslin

  9. This is awful. Robert was one of the kindest people I ever met in any context, anywhere. He’ll be sorely missed.

  10. Robert Kroetsch: I have never met you but you were my mother’s cousin (Adeline Kroetsch Schatz). I had many happy hours in Heisler and know what you write about. How wonderful to have met you through the eyes and hearts of others. Josephine Schatz

  11. Here is a little poem I wrote for Bob June 22, after watching brilliant the U of A video, which now seems such an elegiac, fit tribute:

    “A great illumination”

    On Solstice night, Bob Kroetsch
    is killed in an automobile crash.

    Killed coming home from Canmore
    from ArtsPeak Festival, a poetry fest,
    the art he maybe loved best, spoken.

    He who lit the way for so many
    talks of “a moment of illumination”,
    himself illuminating possibilities.

    A week before turning eighty-four,
    in the hour of most intense light, on
    the longest day, the dark centre in
    focus has pulled his radiance home.

    Down from the mountains, down to
    the plain. Down from ArtsPeak into
    uproar. And silence. That strong voice,
    the voice of Alberta, not eliminated.

    No longer to be heard alive. How can
    we bear the loss of such a giant, such
    generous presence. Of kindness one
    of a kind, so much more to be missed.

    PK

    I first read Robert Kroetsch’s The Ledger, Applegarth Follies, London ON, 1975, and met him shortly afterward when I was asked to be their poetry editor. I could listen to him tell stories, speak poetry for ever!

    • This is a very elegant farewell, Penn Kemp.
      Per Asplund and I worked with Bob for about a decade in the 80′s trying to make a quality feature film of “The Studhorse Man” and had just reconnected with him this past year. All you say is true. So much more to be missed.
      Michelle Stirling-Anosh

  12. ROBERT KROETSCH TOUCHED THE LIFE OF EVERYONE HE MET AND TALKED TO AT ANY LENGTH. I SPENT MANY HOURS IN CONVERSATION WITH HIM ON SEVERAL OCCASIONS AND KNOW HOW GENEROUS HE WAS IN TAPPING INTO WHOMEVER HE WAS TALKING TO, TEASING OUT THE BEST IN THEM AND ENCOURAGING THEM ALWAYS. BUT HE WAS ALSO A BRILLIANT LISTENER TO ANYONE WHO COULD OFFER HIM EVEN A SHARD OF LIGHT ABOUT HIS OWN WORK. LESS AMERICAN TALL-TALE, I ONCE CASUALLY SUGGESTED, THAN THE GROTESQUE OF SOMEONE LIKE GUNTER GRASS. IT WAS JUST AN ASIDE THAT MIGHT HAVE BEEN LOST ON ANYONE ELSE, BUT HE PAUSED LONG AND HARD ON THAT ONE. INTERESTING…VERY INTERESTING, HE REPLIED.
    BUT IT WAS THE MIND THAT HEARD THE COMMENT THAT WAS SPECIAL, ABOVE ALL, ALWAYS OPEN AND RECEPTIVE. SO MANY OF HIS OWN INSIGHTS WERE OFFERED AS QUESTIONS, BUT THE TENTATIVENESS OF THEIR FRAMING WAS JUST A SIGNAL MARKER OF HIS REFUSAL TO PLAY THE PUNDIT — OR GENIUS. BUT HE WAS BOTH.

    BARBARA GABRIEL

  13. From: A Burke
    To: Writers Guild of Alberta
    Sent: Sat, June 25, 2011 7:15:17 PM
    Subject: Re: Special Message from the WGA: Robert Kroetsch

    Robert Kroetsch is a founding member of our Editorial Advisory Board (1983-2011).

    Through the years, I met him when he was a Professor visiting the University of Calgary, at the Writers Guild of Alberta, and at the League of Canadian Poets. He was a wonderful support for his students, collegial with his colleagues, and gracious to strangers.

    We will be dedicating our “Alberta Arts Days” Issue 56 to Robert Kroetsch. With Eli Mandel, John V. Hicks, and Fred Cogswell, he will remain a founding member on our Masthead page for as long as we are publishing. He will remain in our hearts and memories forever.

    Anne Burke
    Literary Editor
    The Prairie Journal

  14. Fiercely indeed. I was lucky to be a participant at Sage Hill during a period when he taught novel writing. Although I was not in his course, I found myself gravitating to his table at meals and after-hours for his comments about myths, writing, and life in general. I loved his books, but I was impressed by his generosity of mind and willingness to mentor anyone who cared to listen. He will be greatly missed by the writing community.

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