The Next Chapter

Joseph Boyden answers the Proust questionnaire

The author of The Orenda and other novels shares his favourite journey, his greatest regret and more.
Joseph Boyden recently created a ballet, Going Home Star, to celebrate the 75th anniversary season of the Royal Winnipeg Ballet.

In Joseph Boyden's breakout novel Three Day Road, two young Cree snipers fight in the First World War. In his Scotiabank Giller Prize-winning novel Through Black Spruce, contemporary characters face the erosion of the culture in their northern community. Boyden's latest novel, The Orenda, goes back to the early days of Canada's formation and captures the clashes between long-standing First Nations communities and the newly arrived Jesuits. The book won the 2014 edition of Canada Reads. 

Joseph Boyden talks about his favourite journey, his greatest regret and more in The Next Chapter's version of the Proust questionnaire.

What is your favourite journey?

There are a couple. There's certainly the one where I leave my home in New Orleans and head up to see my family in northern Ontario. I stop off at my mother's in Ahmic Lake and then I continue further and further north to James Bay to either fish or moose hunt. 

Another favourite is getting on that overnight flight to Paris and arriving the next morning.

Tell me about your heroes in real life.

I come from a very large family, but I've two younger brothers who are both firemen, and if I was ever in a fire these would be the two guys I'd want to come and rescue me. But they're also amazing family men, amazing fathers to their many young children.

Your favourite painter?

My favourite painter is a young man named David Gifford. He's my nephew, I have to admit, but he's an amazing painter and sculptor who lives out in Victoria and is one of the most fascinating people and artists that I know. I think he's probably one of the great stone carvers left in Canada, and one time he did a jade gummy bear that was huge, weighed hundreds of pounds.

What's your greatest regret?

Not knowing my father as an adult. He died when I was young. I would have liked to know more of his experiences — he was in the Second World War and was the most highly decorated medical doctor in the British empire. I would have loved for him to tell me some of his stories. He didn't even tell my mother the stories though — he was very quiet about that aspect of his life.

Joseph Boyden's comments have been edited and condensed.