In collaboration with Gelassenheit Publications, the Institute of Anabaptist and Mennonite Studies hosts E. J. Wiens, author and Grebel alumnus, in conversation with Paul Tiessen about Wiens's recently published novel To Antoine.

This event will be held in the Milton Good Library, at Conrad Grebel University College.


An old man taking inventory of accumulated griefs and failings, fanning smouldering memories, picking among the ashes for scraps of vindication, something to settle the heave in the pit of my stomach. I come here in all weather, oblivious to the chill in the air as the months slip by toward winter. September, November, December, those embers of the dying year. ...

I am like a ghost among them, but my presence does not haunt them. I am just some sordid business from the past for the proper authorities to deal with. I scorn their judgment, but unless I be judged I am nothing. So I take pen and paper and turn to you, Antoine.

Advance Praise for "To Antoine"

"We are what we remember. This overwhelming story asks: does Peter Enns dare to remember what he has done and not done, what was done to him by those he loved, or hated; including Antoine, his brother, mentor … his idol.  Good reader, dare to follow Peter as he unflinchingly remembers himself. And you will discover the beauty, the guilt, the goodness, the horror of being a human being in the (as he calls it) “demented” 20th century."

- Rudy Wiebe

"To Antoine is a powerful novel that digs deeply into the lives of Mennonite families and their friends over a 60-year period, from their struggles for survival in Stalin’s Russia and Hitler’s Germany to their creation of new identities in South America and Canada.

Erwin Wiens, a great story-teller, fills his sometimes noir-ish stories with tension and terror, whether as comedy or tragedy. His narrator is Peter Enns, son of a Mennonite artist and photographer. In 1991-92 Peter, by then in Canada, writes a series of letters to Antoine: Anton Antonovich, a child of former Russian gentry. When Peter was six, Antoine 11, the boys were brought together when Mary Gordon, a Scottish nanny, secretly deposited Antoine with Peter’s family. Secrets of Peter’s war-time deeds haunt him as he struggles to vindicate himself.

To Antoine, visceral and cerebral at once, is a quest for knowledge and forgiveness. It is a vivid portrait of bit players in the chaos of twentieth-century mayhem: of pragmatism and idealism; of loyalties and betrayals; of opportunism and deceit, complicity and revenge."

- Paul Tiessen

Paul Tiessen

Paul Tiessen taught English and Film Studies at Wilfrid Laurier University for 37 years. With Hildi Froese Tiessen his Mennonite publications include L.M. Montgomery’s letters to Ephraim Weber (U Toronto P) and Woldemar Neufeld’s Canadian Landscapes (Wilfrid Laurier UP). He has published essays on Mennonite novelists such as Miriam Toews, Sandra Birdsell, and Rudy Wiebe, and on the relationship between Marshall McLuhan and Wilfred Watson. With a team of international colleagues, he edited a trilogy of novels by Malcolm Lowry (U Ottawa P). He has new work on Wiebe and on Lowry underway.

Erwin J. Wiens

Erwin J. Wiens was born in Edmonton and raised in Niagara. He received his MA from the University of Waterloo and his doctorate in English Literature from the University of Ottawa. In 1990, he toured the Soviet Union, where he visited the former Mennonite colonies in southern Ukraine, his distant relatives east of the Urals, and two elderly survivors of the gulag.