In 1965 George Grant published Lament for a Nation: The Defeat of Canadian Nationalism,1 a book asking Canadians whether they had 'the power and the desire to maintain some independence of the American empire' (p. vii). Underlying that question, Grant saw 'the deeper question of the fate of any particularity in the technological age' (p. ix). Grant's elegy looked backwards to Canada's origins in a vision of 'community which had a stronger sense of the common good and of public order than was possible under the individualism of the American capitalist dream' (p. x). By biking backward, he hoped to inspire Canadians to continue forward along a different route than that charted by American capitalism. Joy Kogawa's Obasan2 recreates the anguish of one particular community facing the faceless bureaucratic destruction created by the homogenizing impulse Grant feared. Obasan is an elegy for lost particularity, and a plea that the value of the particular be recognized and reasserted by the fragments that have survived its sundering.
Brydon, Diana, Obasan: Joy Kogawa's 'Lament for a Nation', Kunapipi, 6(1), 1984.