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|Born||4 October 1934|
Fairholme, Saskatchewan, Canada
Tena Isaak (m. 1958)
Wiebe was born at Speedwell, near Fairholme, Saskatchewan, in what would later become his family's chicken barn. For thirteen years he lived in an isolated community of about 250 people, as part of the last generation of homesteaders to settle the Canadian west. He did not speak English until age six since Mennonites at that time customarily spoke Low German at home and standard German at Church. He attended the small school three miles from his farm and the Speedwell Mennonite Brethren Church.
He received his B.A. in 1956 from the University of Alberta and then studied under a Rotary International Fellowship at the University of Tübingen in West Germany, near Stuttgart. In 1958 he married Tena Isaak, with whom he had two children. In Germany, he studied literature and theology and travelled to England, Austria, Switzerland and Italy. In 1962, he received a Bachelor of Theology degree from Mennonite Brethren Bible College, now Canadian Mennonite University.
Wiebe's novels include Peace Shall Destroy Many (1962), First and Vital Candle (1966), The Blue Mountains of China (1970), The Temptations of Big Bear (1973), The Scorched-wood People (1977), The Mad Trapper (1980), My Lovely Enemy (1983), A Discovery of Strangers (1994), Sweeter Than All the World (2001), and Come Back (2014). He has also published collections of short stories, essays, and children's books. In 2006 he published a volume of memoirs about his childhood, entitled Of This Earth: A Mennonite Boyhood in the Boreal Forest.
Thomas King says of The Temptations of Big Bear that "Wiebe captures the pathos and the emotion of Native people at a certain point in their history and he does it well ... Wiebe points out to us that Canada has not come to terms with Native peoples, that there is unfinished business to attend to."
The Canadian Encyclopedia describes My Lovely Enemy as "a daring, experimental book involving a radical theology of love."
Wiebe taught at Goshen College in Goshen, Indiana from 1963 to 1967, and he has travelled widely. He is deeply committed to the literary culture of Canada and has shown a particular interest in the traditions and struggles of people in the Prairie provinces, both whites and Aboriginals.
Wiebe won the Governor General's Award for Fiction twice, for The Temptations of Big Bear (1973) and A Discovery of Strangers (1994). He was awarded the Royal Society of Canada's Lorne Pierce Medal in 1986. In 2000 he was made an Officer of the Order of Canada. In 2003 Wiebe was a member of the jury for the Giller Prize.