Man Proposes, God Disposes: Recollections of a French Pioneer
"From the edge of the plateau there was a splendid view: the Athabasca, flowing from the east, made a great curve in front of us and carried on towards the village. … At the moment we stopped, we could see lines of ten or fifteen sledges gliding on the trail made in the ice on the river. The view was so panoramic both to our right and our left, and also over the undulations descending towards the bank, that we took the decision right there and then to plant our flag on the spot, like explorers in an unknown land and to build our house there."
In 1910, young Pierre Maturié bid farewell to his comfortable bourgeois existence in rural France and travelled to northern Alberta in search of independence, adventure, and newfound prosperity. Some sixty years later, he wrote of the four years he spent in Canada before he returned to France in 1914 to fight in the First World War. Like that of so many youthful pioneers, his story is one of adventure and hardship—perilous journeys, railroad construction in the Rockies, panning for gold in swift-flowing streams, transporting goods for the Hudson's Bay Company along the Athabasca River. Blessed with the rare gift of a natural storyteller, Maturié conveys his abiding nostalgia for a country he loved deeply yet ultimately had to abandon.
Maturié's memoir, Man Proposes, God Disposes, appeared in France in 1972, to a warm reception. Now, in the deft and marvellously empathetic translation of Vivien Bosley, it is at long last available in English. As a portrait of pioneer life in northern Alberta, as a window onto the French experience in Canada, and, above all, as an irresistible story—it will continue to find a place in the hearts of readers for years to come.