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A Fair Country

3.86 of 5 stars 3.86  ·  rating details  ·  214 ratings  ·  31 reviews
In this startlingly original vision of Canada, renowned thinker John Ralston Saul argues that Canada is a Métis nation, heavily influenced & shaped by Aboriginal ideas: Egalitarianism, a proper balance between individual & group, & a penchant for negotiation over violence are all Aboriginal values that Canada absorbed. An obstacle to our progress, Saul argues, ...more
Hardcover, 352 pages
Published September 16th 2008 by Viking Canada/Penguin Group (Toronto) (first published 2008)
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Ben Babcock
My exposure to politics as a child was, like so many things, gradual and haphazard. There were the overt attempts to indoctrinate me into democracy—vague spectres of mock elections in grade six dance in the deep recesses of memory. There more subtle episodes, such as the late-night satirical sketches of Royal Canadian Air Farce, where most of the humour would go over my head for years after I started watching. There were the disruptive moments, like that day in grade seven when I came home for l ...more
William
I was going to give it only 3 stars because the middle part of the book is quite a rant but I find myself thinking about it constantly. Some authors awaken inside of you truths which were always there but buried. This is such a book.
His thesis is that Canada is in fact a nation founded on 3 pillars - French, English and Aboriginal. We have largley denied the last ( and possibly most important ) and in doing so have failed to meet many of our greatest challenges. Our current 'elites' have simila
...more
Ted Newell
I was puzzled by this book. I admire the author as public intellectual who had years to gain a privileged view of the country at the side of the then-Governor General. I wait to hear more from him. For now, I was not persuaded that the founding generations of the country were much influenced by Metis or First Nations thinking. To be frank, an English loyalist Protestant triumphalism dominated, and I say that counting myself as a hopefully chastened later member of the clan. The dominant (thankfu ...more
Rob
(5/10) Okay, here's the thing Canadorks: brainless flag-waving is still brainless flag-waving when that flag has a maple leaf on it. Canadians like to think they aren't very patriotic, which is easy to understand living next to the land of star-spangled fireworks, but really the kind of quiet backhanded aw-shucks patriotism of Canadians is just as insidious as the louder varieties. And here comes John Ralston Saul to try and invent a bigger, Native-er national myth.

To hear Saul tell it, there's
...more
Me
If I were to go on and write on every line Saul provides to the great Canadian public I feel rather dumbed daily on how this man appeals. His arguments are all riddled. So much for an intellect, ever Aboriginal person is his brother, why it's quite fair to disagree. It's appalling for "the" representative of Canada on the most donned intellectual is only 70% right most of the time, or all the time. Disappointed, we are all so easily sold on our fantasies. Not cynical or rhetorical or madly negat ...more
Todd
I had to debate on clicking non-fiction or fiction. I'm a fan of John Ralston Saul, this book is very, very interesting and well worth reading. Actually I would think that every Canadian should read it. But, I wasn't convinced that Metis culture has really influenced Canadian culture. If you would like to have delightful hours of thinking ahead of you, then this is the book to pick up. If you want to have your mind blown and perceptions of the world change, it's more likely that you'll need to r ...more
Emily
I LOVE the idea of the three founding pillars of Canada-French, English, and Aboriginal. And even if what he has written is total bull, it's a poetic identity for Canada to have, and I think we, as a country, should have a closer relationship with the French, i.e. Quebec, and the thousands of Natives in our 'fair' country.
I also admire the amount of historic research he has done, with finding a wad of records that contain 'peace, welfare, and good government'.
That being said, I am a Canadian se
...more
Darcy
John Ralston Saul is not an author you quickly read and I must confess, the first time I tried to read this book I gave up after about 100 pages. BUT I knew there was something there I needed to understand and learn. So I opened it again and approached it as if I were in conversation with Saul. Suddenly the pages came to life and I was gobbling up the book. Saul's respect for the First Nations of Canada is profound and inspiring. I love his articulation of Canadian society and how it is rooted i ...more
Vanessa
Mar 10, 2011 Vanessa rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Canadians, including souverainistes
Recommended to Vanessa by: Librarie Paragraphe, Montreal
This was excellent. It's written in a somewhat ranty, conversational style - I had the impression of reading a transcript of a lecture - that gives the book a chaotic feel. This is both a strength and a weakness. Main theses: Canadian civilization is based on Aboriginal and Métis concepts of social organization and justice; the Canadian elite are cowardly, weak, wallowing in a colonialist fantasy; Canadians need to reconsider the North and its citizens on its own terms. He also covers economics, ...more
Lucia Iordache
If you’re planning to visit Canada and want to learn more about Canadian history you might find this book interesting. This is not a history book but a social and political philosophy book about the making of Canada. It’s not an easy read and if you don’t like philosophy or abstract concepts you might not like it. As an immigrant, I’ve always struggled to find a sense of identity in my adoptive country. I found it interesting to discover that this struggle is perhaps just as present among born C ...more
A.J.
I think this book should be required reading for all new Canadians. Not least because John Ralston Saul says such nice things about new immigrants. And because it makes such a lot of sense. It gets very political in the middle, but the historical perspective on how Canada was forged out of the Aboriginal approach to welcoming the 'other' is absolutely fascinating and I was nodding my head all the way through the early chapters. This man knows his history and has a clear vision of how it can be i ...more
Matt
Not without bold question marks in the margins and glaring concerns for greater clarity, still an engaging and exciting thesis. Best book I've read in awhile.
Catherine
The beginning of the book goes through Canadian history with an interesting sort of "Aboriginal" lens. Unfortunately, Saul then goes on an extended rant about how "our elites" (a term he never really pins down) have failed us, which feels vague and insufficiently supported. The final section offers some recommendations for how we might think about ourselves as a country and how we might solve some of our more pressing issues. On the whole, the book provides some interesting ideas, but I would ha ...more
Carol Sorensen
Jun 15, 2014 Carol Sorensen rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: anyone
Shelves: canadiana
This book taught me things I didn't know, and put them together in a unique and valuable way.
Lexie
Over half the time I spent reading this, I was skeptical to accept Saul's ideas for some reason- perhaps it is his tone, and the fact that it sounds like he is providing "answers". Although I found this book to be a bit rambly and lack explanations/reasoning for some of his points, I still found some great points within it and can appreciate his commentary on Canadian elite. Most importantly, I appreciated his urge for us to recognize a truer, more inclusive look at Canadian history than has bee ...more
Lupeng Jin
I really appreciate that the author provided me with a precious chance to learn something about Canada, a country in which I had had no interest. The bilingual culture made this country totally different from any others on the planet. It is seemingly unnecessary to pay attention to it as same as to its great neighbor - the United States of America, but I believe no one dare to look down upon Canada.
Paul
Mar 18, 2012 Paul rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: free thinking Canadians
If you've long had a sneaking suspicion that you were fed a pack of pos-colonial lies in history class, read this book. If you lament the inability of this countries elites to rise above a servile colonial mindset, read this book. If you have hope that we can, as a nation, remember that we are a wonderfully diverse group of fair-minded, courageous, innovative people, read this book.
Cow
Jan 24, 2009 Cow rated it 5 of 5 stars
Shelves: canada
Absolutely fascinating, if you're at all interested in the current issues in Canadian politics and economics and their origins--including the ones you might not have thought of. Ralston Saul expresses ideas I've thought of, but he is articulate enough to be able to put words and images to them--and thus make the argument, and help me make it.
Cheryl
“In the circle of life, the circumference nurtures the centre.” P 62. This describes the web of relationships of First Nations society of the northwest coast, in BC. Many nations, each considered themselves different, yet the relationships of stories, myths, economic roles linked them into a larger more complex culture.
Theiantrout
John Ralston Saul once again has proved that there is a more nuanced and balanced way of defining Canada that sets us apart from most other western states. Our schoolroom history often sweeps over the contributions of the First Nations peoples, which are brought to light with elegant prose by one of Canada's leading thinkers.
Christy
What I read of this book was amazing. But perhaps too much so for my comprehension. I easily absorbed 2/3 and then was just overwhelmed.
I would recommend this book to anyone interested in culture, history, Canada, or currently living in Canada. I will finish the book once my brain recovers from the first 2/3s.
H Wesselius
Saul makes a compelling case for his vision of Canada. A metis nation that has a different founding than other "European" nations. His bashing of the Canadian elite is well deserved but in critizing them for not pursuing useful solutions to problems, he needs to remember he is part of the elite.
Nick Hodge
I learned that Canada really is different from other countries, and John Ralston Saul has managed to articulate the reason why.
I also learned a little more Canadian history than what I picked up in high school.
Karlo
I'm not sure that I agree with Saul's explanation of why Canada is a Metis nation, but damn I like it as a creation myth for Canadian culture. I really enjoyed this book.
State


A thought provoking novel, especially for those of us who are Métis.
Martha
many of these essays describe Canada as a metis culture; dry writing
Tiffany
Ispiring, depressing, controversial... loved it. Must read!
Skot
Still in it. See my review of "Riel: A Life".
Bernadette
An honest approach to Canadian History.
Kristi Fedorowicz
Dumb. Don't waste your time.
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John Ralston Saul is a Canadian author, essayist, and President of International PEN. As an essayist, Saul is particularly known for his commentaries on the nature of individualism, citizenship and the public good; the failures of manager-, or more precisely technocrat-, led societies; the confusion between leadership and managerialism; military strategy, in particular irregular warfare; the role ...more
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