Klee Wyck

Klee Wyck (1941) is a memoir by Emily Carr, consisting of a collection of literary sketches. It is an evocative work that describes in vivid detail the influence that the Indigenous people and culture of the Northwest Coast had on Carr. Klee Wyck (“Laughing One”) is the name the Nuu-chah-nulth (Nootka) people gave her. The book won a Governor General’s Literary Award for nonfiction in 1941 and has been translated into French.

Emily Carr
(courtesy Archives of Ontario/ F 1075-12-0-0-168, I0007935)

Carr’s clear, poetic prose summons up totems, abandoned villages, Northwest Coast Indigenous culture, broken-English dialogue and natural scenery. It never lapses into nostalgic sentimentality, sociology or romance. Her writing inevitably invites comparison with her painting. Carr’s gifts with words are of a different but not a lesser order. She perceives with a keenly sympathetic eye and achieves a remarkable purity of effect through her careful translation of images into language. 

Klee Wyck is also the name of a documentary short film about Carr and her work. It was produced by the National Film Board in 1946. A popular choral piece by Brian Tate, inspired by Carr and published in 2000, is also called “Klee Wyck.”


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