In this presentation, Robert Zacharias reflected on the centenary of the Russlaender migration from the Soviet Union by considering its representation in Mennonite Canadian literature. From Sandra Birdsell to John Weier to Rudy Wiebe, a host of Mennonite authors have returned to rewrite this dramatic history in fictional form. Why have so many authors returned to retell this story? How does literature help us remember the past? And is it truly possible to visit the places to which we are first introduced by fiction?
Robert Zacharias is an associate professor in the Department of English at York University, and associate editor of the Journal of Mennonite Studies. He is author of Rewriting the Break Event: Mennonites and Migration in Canadian Literature (2012) and Reading Mennonite Writing: A Study in Minor Transnationalism (2022), and editor of After Identity: Mennonite Writing in North America (2016).