Bergen, David

David Bergen, novelist, short-story writer (b at Port Edward, BC 1957). David Bergen grew up in the small fishing village of Port Edward and later in the small Mennonite town of Niverville, Manitoba. He attended Bible college in British Columbia and Red River College in Winnipeg, where he studied creative communications. Bergen taught high school English in Winnipeg until 2002; he teaches creative writing for Humber College and the Banff Centre for the Arts. Like fellow Manitoban writers Miriam TOEWS and Sandra BIRDSELL, Bergen was raised in the Mennonite faith. Bergen has commented that his church's discouragement of questioning led him to writing. "Writing is a way of figuring things out," he has observed. "If you can't ask certain questions in church, maybe you can ask them in fiction." The issues that Bergen questions in his fiction include loss, guilt, familial estrangement, and the individual quest for redemption and salvation.

David Bergen's first publication was a collection of short stories titled Sitting Opposite My Brother (1993). The book includes a number of stories originally published in the well-regarded Journey Prize anthologies. Bergen received the John Hirsch Award for Most Promising Manitoba Writer in 1993. His first novel, A Year of Lesser (1996), concerns the spiritual struggles of a seemingly unspiritual man, an alcoholic and philanderer name Johnny Ferh. As suggested by the name of his small Manitoban town, Lesser, Fehr is a tragic hero on a lesser scale--weak, clearly flawed, but nevertheless not unsympathetic. A Year of Lesser won the McNally Robinson Book of the Year Award. See the Child (1999) is also set in small-town Manitoba and is also focused on a man coping with loss, in this case the death of a teenaged son. Reviewers described the book as "downbeat" and "dark," but noted David Bergen's authentic and moving portrayal of grief and personal devastation.

David Bergen won the 1999 Canadian Literary Award for his short story "How Can N Men Share a Bottle of Vodka." His third novel, The Case of Lena S. (2002), is a coming-of-age story set in Winnipeg. The protagonist is the sensitive, thoughtful 16-year-old Mason Crowe; Lena S. is his love interest, who suffers from depression and from repression by her fundamentalist parents. The Case of Lena S. was shortlisted for a number of major literary prizes, including the GOVERNOR GENERAL'S AWARD, and it won the Carol Shields Winnipeg Book Award.

Two intertwined narratives unfold in Bergen's 2005 novel The Time In Between. Ada Boatman is searching for her father, who has gone missing in Vietnam; Charles Boatman is searching for understanding and atonement for his part in a horrific incident, 30 years earlier, during the Vietnam War. Bergen draws on his own observations to depict present-day Vietnam, where he lived in 1996, but he notes that the novel was also influenced by his experiences teaching Vietnamese refugees in Thailand in the late 1980s. David Bergen won the SCOTIABANK GILLER PRIZE for The Time In Between, which was a Canadian best-seller.