06.22.2011 04:01 PM

Robert Kroetsch, R.I.P.

I am so sad to read this:

Canadian novelist and poet Robert Kroetsch has died in a car accident near Drumheller, Alta. He was 83.

Kroetsch died Tuesday while returning to his home in Leduc, Alta., from the Artspeak Festival in Canmore, according his publisher University of Alberta Press.

What an extraordinary man he was!  I know, because Kroetsch taught me in 1980, in my first year at the University of Calgary.  Without getting into too much detail, I was leading a pretty rock’n’roll lifestyle in those days, and doing all kinds of things I shouldn’t have done.  I missed a lot of classes and assignments, and I had rock-bottom grades to show for it.

One day, I got back an essay I had written for Kroetsch’s English class.  I don’t remember the grade, but I certainly remember every word of what he wrote:


I remember reading those words like they were written yesterday.  They had the desired effect, too.  I resolved to get my act together – so I quit what I was doing, transferred to another university, and ended up graduating in a lot better shape.

You know those teachers who change your life?  Dave Beatty was one, and Father O’Brien, and George Roseme.

And Robert Kroetsch, who I will miss, and whose words I took to heart.


  1. The Doctor says:

    Reminds me of Walter White’s admonition to his student Jesse Pinkman:


    And look how well THAT turned out . . .

  2. Michael Behiels says:

    Great anecdote!

    He will be sorely missed by former students like yourself, fellow writers and all his Canadian and international readers.

    Sincere condolences to his immediate and extended families.

  3. Merrill Smith says:

    Thank you for mentioning George Roseme. I can’t say he changed my life, but he was one of the most memorable professors I ever came across, (him and John W. Strong.) I remember him telling us he once had 100,000 people cheering him as he threw a stick, (he was an elite javelin thrower) and he seemed quite unimpressed by the fact. It’s so sad that we never had the opportunity to say goodbye to him.

  4. allegra fortissima says:

    I found several books by Robert Robert Kroetsch this morning at my favourite secondhand bookstore. I instantly decided to acquire his novel What The Crow Said after opening page 64 and starting to read:

    “And that was the first time the crow spoke. People, years later, insisted that it learned to talk from listening to Liebhaber piss and moan about the world. He was always pissing and moaning, people said. Whether or not the crow was speaking what was on the silent child’s mind, that was never clearly determined. But there were those who insisted that the black crow sometimes spoke on behalf of JG.
    ‘Liebhaber,’ the crow said. It had never spoken before that moment, had hardly bothered to say caw. ‘Liebhaber, you don’t know your ass from your elbow. You are a dumbkopf beyond my worst expectations. Don’t you see what your friend is doing?’ ”

    Beautiful writing. One of those people I wish I had met.

  5. Jane says:


    *whom* you will miss

  6. Paula Kroetsch says:

    I am sad to hear of his death…. living away from the family, i never hear much. I was so glad when he went back to the homeland and did that documentary of the family. I was always hoping to be taught by him when i got into university myself, he is the one who inspired me to follow my dreams. rest in peace, dear cousin…. this world will never forget you.

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