Lars Jensen


In the current post-colonial discourse on the revising of imperial history, George Bowering's novel Burning Water provides an interesting case study, as it presents itself as a historical fictional rewriting of George Vancouver's journey of exploration. While bearing clear evidence of extensive research it simultaneously deliberately distances itself from its historical sources, primarily through its imaginary rendering of the dialogue amongst the Europeans and the Indians. With regards to the actual course of events during the expedition as described in the journals of the naval officers, the plot in Burning Water diverges little from the primary material except for the ending. Where the novel does deviate from the historical records is in its selection of certain events as a backdrop for the novel's story, the inclusion of the twentieth century narrator's own movements and narrative considerations in the writing process, the suspension of a linear narrated time and most significantly of all the author's invention of dialogue between his historical characters. This dialogue lends life to the records providing a narrative without which, in Bowering's words, 'George Vancouver is just another dead sailor' (p. 9).



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