"From the edge of the plateau there was a splendid view: theAthabasca, flowing from the east, made a great curve in front of us andcarried on towards the village. ...At the moment we stopped, wecould see lines of ten or fifteen sledges gliding on the trail made inthe ice on the river. The view was so panoramic both to our right andour left, and also over the undulations descending towards the bank,that we took our decision right there and then to plant our flag on thespot, like explorers in an unknown land and to build our housethere."
In 1910, young Pierre Maturie bid farewell to his comfortablebourgeois existence in rural France and travelled to northern Albertain search of independence, adventure, and prosperity. Some sixty yearslater, he wrote of the four years he spent in Canada before he returnedto France in 1914 to fight in the First World War. Like that of so manyyouthful pioneers, his story is one of adventure andhardship-perilous journeys, railroad construction in the Rockies,panning for gold in swift-flowing streams, transporting goods for theHudson's Bay Company along the Athabasca River. Blessed with therare gift of a natural storyteller, Maturie conveys his abidingnostalgia for a country he loved deeply yet ultimately had toabandon.
Maturie's memoir, Man Proposes, God Disposes,appeared in France in 1972, to a warm reception. Now, in the deft andmarvelously empathetic translation of Vivien Bosley, it is at long lastavailable in English. As a portrait of pioneer life in northernAlberta, as a window onto the French experience in Canada, and, aboveall, as an irresistible story-it will continue to find a place inthe hearts of readers for years to come.