Rabindranath Maharaj reflects on how his visit to the Torngats affected his writing


In the summer of 2011, CBC host Shelagh Rogers and five well-known Canadian writers went to Torngat Mountain National Park in remote northern Labrador. The authors were Alissa York, Noah Richler, Rabindranath Maharaj, Joseph Boyden and Sarah Leavitt, and their task was to soak up the spirit of the North and channel their surroundings into a piece of writing. The resulting stories are available as an e-book from House of Anansi Press -- which is on sale now -- and a portion of the e-book's profits will go to PGIs for Literacy.

The entire journey was captured on film for the documentary Northwords, airing on the documentary channel on October 25. Until then, CBC Books will be exploring their experience in more detail.

The experience was also captured on radio. Be sure to listen to The Next Chapter's award-winning Northwords episode!

And if you're in Toronto, don't miss the screening of Northwords at the International Festival of Authors at Harbourfront on Oct. 20!

CBC Books asked participating Northwords authors about how last year's visit to the Torngats continues to affect them. Today, Rabindranath Maharaj shares the memories of the trip that have stuck with him for the past year:

si-maharaj.jpg"Apart from the majestic scenery what I recall most is the difficulty of reading the people who lived there. Little glimmers of understanding have arrived here, back in the city. I recall one conversation, though. It was with one of the bear guards. We were visiting an abandoned Moravian church and, on the beach, he was telling me that sometimes he heard the sound of children laughing and climbing a nearby escarpment. Then he stopped suddenly and said that he could not go on as his grandmother always told him that he should not cry outside their home. He said this in an impassive way and later on I discovered that he had spent some of his childhood on the island.

It's difficult to say, with any assurance, how the trip has affected my writing. Not in style or tone but perhaps in deeper and so more indistinguishable ways; perhaps in the way I view particular types of relationships and affinities - like, for instance, our relationship with the passage of time. The trip also revived a childhood fascination with the landscape and it reminded me of the hours I spent, in my early teens, trying to imagine the grand and desolate worlds described by a host of sci-fi writers.

Perhaps the trip reminded me of simpler times when, in my innocence, I sensed more naturally the connections between things. I know this will find its way in my writing but I cannot say how this will happen or what form it may take."

Listen to Rabindranath Maharaj read his story inspired by the Torngats:

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