A valuable contribution to the emergence of prairie realism in Canadian writing
Craig Forrester is newly returned to Winnipeg following World War I, and he has returned to a city and a country mired in social upheaval. Will he choose the complacency of upward mobility or his personal, more socially conscious ethical code? Originally published in 1923, The Magpie is a social commentary turned novel about post-war disillusionment. Set against the backdrop of the Winnipeg Grain Exchange, The Magpie offers an articulate and perceptive examination of the greed, hypocrisy, and intolerance of the “decent” classes, the agrarian myth, the role of women in post-war society, the role of art in social critique, and the evolution of moral codes in settler-Canadian society.
Douglas Durkin (1884-1968) grew up in northern Ontario and Manitoba. He taught at Brandon College and the University of Manitoba before moving to New York, where he taught for a short time at Columbia University. He later married Martha Ostenso, composed several ballads with Carl Sandberg, and collaborated on a screenplay, Union Depot, with Gene Fowler. He also contributed short stories to Harper’s, Liberty, and Century. In 1958 Durkin and Ostenso retroactively claimed that work published under the name “Martha Ostenso” was collaborative work. This claim of co-authorship continues to cause debate among literary historians.
“It is a very fair story of Canada in general and Winnipeg in particular at more or less the present moment… as a resume of the situation in all its nebulous, overgrown, loose-endedness, it is distinctly striking.”
— Canadian Bookman, 1924