John Ralston Saul



Award-winning essayist and novelist, John Ralston Saul has had a growing impact on political and economic thought in many countries. Declared a “prophet” by TIME magazine, he is included in the prestigious Utne Reader’s list of the world’s 100 leading thinkers and visionaries. His works have been translated into more than a dozen languages.

In his latest book, A Fair Country: Telling Truths about Canada, Saul unveils 3 founding myths. He argues that the famous “peace, order, and good government” that supposedly defines Canada is a distortion of the country’s true nature. Every single document before the BNA Act, he points out, used the phrase “peace, welfare, and good government,” demonstrating that the well-being of its citizenry was paramount. He also argues that Canada is a Métis nation, heavily influenced and shaped by aboriginal ideas: egalitarianism, a proper balance between individual and group, and a penchant for negotiation over violence are all aboriginal values that Canada absorbed. Another obstacle to progress, Saul argues, is that Canada has an increasingly ineffective elite, a colonial non-intellectual business elite that doesn’t believe in Canada. It is critical that we recognize these aspects of the country in order to rethink its future.

In The Collapse of Globalism and the Reinvention of the World he confronts the reigning economic ideology known as globalization. Far from being an inevitable force, Saul believes globalization is already breaking up into contradictory pieces and that citizens are reasserting their national interests in both positive and destructive ways. The Publishers Weekly review concluded: “Needless to say, Saul will have no fans among the tax cutters and free trade proselytizers, but his salient analysis is as accessible and relevant to the small shop owner as it is to the CEO of a multinational corporation.”

He has received many national and international awards for his writing, most recently the Pablo Neruda International Presidential Medal of Honour from the Chilean government. His Massey Lectures, The Unconscious Civilization, won the 1996 Governor General’s Literary Award for Non-Fiction, as well as the Gordon Montador Award for Best Canadian Book on Social Issues. His reinterpretation of the nature of Canada, Reflections of a Siamese Twin, also won a Montador Award and was chosen by Maclean’s as one of the ten best non-fiction books of the twentieth century.

Saul is best known for his philosophical trilogy – Voltaire’s Bastards: The Dictatorship of Reason in the West , The Doubter’s Companion: A Dictionary of Aggressive Common Sense and The Unconscious Civilization. This was followed by a meditation on the trilogy – On Equilibrium: Six Qualities of the New Humanism. His reinterpretation of the nature of Canada – Reflections of a Siamese Twin (1997) –was a groundbreaking reassessment of Canada and launched a national debate.

He has published five novels, including The Birds of Prey, an international best seller, as well as The Field Trilogy, which deals with the crisis of modern power and its clash with the individual. It includes Baraka or The Lives, Fortunes and Sacred Honor of Anthony Smith, The Next Best Thing , and The Paradise Eater, which won the prestigious Premio Lettarario Internazionale in Italy. De Si Bons Americains is a picaresque novel in which he observes the life of modern nouveaux riches Americans.

He is particularly known for his commentaries on the nature of individualism, citizenship and the public good; the failures of managerially/technocratically led societies; the confusion between leadership and managerialism; military strategy, in particular irregular warfare; the role of freedom of speech and culture; and his critique of contemporary economic arguments.

He is General Editor of the Penguin "Extraordinary Canadians" project. The series will feature inspired pairings of writers and subjects and will seek to reinterpret important Canadian figures for a contemporary audience. Among others, the series will include David Adams Richards on Lord Beaverbrook, Joseph Boyden on Louis Riel and Gabriel Dumont, Douglas Coupland on Marshall McLuhan, Lewis de Soto on Emily Carr, Margaret MacMillan on Stephen Leacock, Nino Ricci on Pierre Elliott Trudeau, and Jane Urquhart on Lucy Maud Montgomery.

John Saul is co-Chair of the Institute for Canadian Citizenship. He is Patron and former president of the Canadian Centre of International PEN. He is also Founder and Honorary Chair of French for the Future, Chair of the Advisory Board for the LaFontaine-Baldwin lecture series , Honorary Chair of the Project Advisors’ Committee for Evergreen at the Brickworks, Distinguished Patron of the Canadian Academy of Independent Scholars, and Patron of PLAN (a cutting edge organization tied to people with disabilities), Engineers without Borders, and the Canadian Landmine Foundation. A Companion in the Order of Canada (1999), he is also Chevalier in the Ordre des Arts et des Lettres of France (1996). His 14 honourary degrees range from McGill and the l’Université d’Ottawa to Herzen State Pedagogical University in St. Petersburg, Russia.

John Ralston Saul was born in Ottawa. He studied at McGill University and the University of London, where he obtained his Ph.D. in 1972.

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