WISEMAN, ADELE (1928-1992)
Canadian writer Adele Wiseman was born on May 21, 1928, and raised in Winnipeg, Manitoba. Her parents had emigrated from the Ukraine in 1923 and spent two years in Montreal before settling in Winnipeg's North End, a vibrant enclave of Jewish, German, Ukrainian, and Slavic immigrants. Wiseman earned a bachelor of arts degree in English and psychology from the University of Manitoba in 1949. Following graduation, she lived in London, Rome, and New York, where she wrote and worked at a number of jobs. From 1964 to 1969 Wiseman lived in Montreal, where she taught English at Sir George Williams (now Concordia) University and Macdonald College of McGill University. She was later writer in residence at several Canadian universities and head of the May Studios (Writing Program) at Banff Centre for the Arts.
Wiseman wrote two novels, The Sacrifice, which received the Governor General's Literary Award for fiction in 1956, and Crackpot (1974). Both novels employ biblical metaphors, are set in (the unnamed city of ) Winnipeg, and explore the lives of Jewish immigrants who settle on the Canadian Prairies. The Sacrifice is the tragic story of a butcher who murders a local temptress. The biblical story of Abraham and Isaac resonates throughout Wiseman's narrative. Her own Abraham– once proud and certain–is transplanted from the Old to the New World, where he loses his third son and his precarious hold on life in a novel that charts the demise of a patriarch. Crackpot shifts from tragic to comic mode and experiments with narrative form and perspective. The work celebrates the resilience of Hoda, an obese Jewish prostitute whose life, like Abraham's, is shattered by moral and spiritual challenges.
Wiseman also wrote two plays (The Lovebound, ca. 1960; Testimonial Dinner, 1978); two books for children (Kenji and the Cricket, 1988; Puccini and the Prowlers, 1992); and three works of nonfiction (Old Markets, New World, 1964; Old Woman at Play, 1978; Memoirs of a Book Molesting Childhood and Other Essays, 1987). Her correspondence with fellow writer and friend is available in Selected Letters of Margaret Laurence and Adele Wiseman (1997).
See also CITIES AND TOWNS: Winnipeg, Manitoba.
Ruth Panofsky Ryerson Polytechnic University
Greene, Elizabeth, ed. We Who Can Fly: Poems, Essays and Memories in Honour of Adele Wiseman. Dunvegan, Ontario: Cormorant Books, 1997.
Panofsky, Ruth, ed. Room of One's Own 16 (1993).
Adele Wiseman issue. Adele Wiseman Papers, York University, Toronto.