Wiseman, Adele

Adele Wiseman, novelist (b at Winnipeg, Man 21 May 1928; d at Toronto, Ont 1 June 1992). Wiseman's Russian-Jewish parents emigrated in the early 1920s from the Ukraine to Winnipeg. The landscape of Winnipeg and her Jewish heritage were formative influences on the author; immigrant settlement on the Prairies and second-generation acculturation to Canadian society are explored in her fiction. She was educated at the University of Manitoba (BA, 1949), where she began to write seriously, and worked to support her writing as a social worker in England, a teacher in Italy, and executive secretary to the Royal Winnipeg Ballet. Her first novel, The Sacrifice (1956), is the moving and complex story of Abraham, an orthodox Jew with Old World values whose life turns to chaos and tragedy in the New World. Grounded in biblical myths, the novel rewrites the Old Testament story of Abraham and Isaac and skilfully mediates between traditional Jewish myth and modern secular experience. It won wide critical acclaim and the Governor General's Award.

In Crackpot (1974), the protagonist is an obese Jewish prostitute who reflects upon the various trials and triumphs of her unusual life. A comic and wonderfully affirmative moral novel, it is deeply rooted in the concrete world of Winnipeg's north end and also reaches mythic dimensions. Her most autobiographical work, Old Woman at Play (1978), provides aesthetic insights into her novels, combining descriptions of her mother's dollmaking and the author's speculations on artistic creativity. Wiseman also published her reminiscences of the Winnipeg Farmers' Market, Old Markets, New World (1964), a play, Testimonial Dinner (1978), a children's story, Kenji and the Cricket (1986), and a collection of essays, Memoirs of a Book-Molesting Childhood (1987).