The Great CanLit Test: Test Your Knowledge of Our Nation’s Literature

by Richard Davies

1. What is the most famous poem in Canadian history? Who is the author? (His poem was on the old $10 bill.)
2. What is the federal recognition given out annually since the 1930s for significant Canadian writing in each genre, each year?
3. Who is the Montreal writer who started as a poet and ‘pornographic’ novelist, and who later morphed into Canada’s internationally-known singer-songwriter-performer-cult figure?
4. Which P.E.I. writer has the most famous house on the island and whose children’s works have drawn over 100,000 Japanese fan-tourists?
5. Hugh MacLennan (tied with Michael Ondaatje for most GGs) is most famous for his 1960s novel about French- and English-Canadians in conflict in Quebec. What is it called?
6. Who was Winnipeg’s first famous novelist who wrote several significant’ women’s novels’ set in small prairie towns? (One of her books was famously banned in Ontario.)
7. Who was Canada’s most famous humorist writer of many popular books? (He taught Economics at McGill. There is an award named after him.)
8. W.O. Mitchell wrote the classic coming-of-age Canadian prairie novel called?
9. Which acclaimed Canadian short-story writer is so famous she is recognized in many other countries and was recently saluted by a coin and stamp issued in her own country?
10.Which Jewish-Canadian Montreal novelist had a wicked wit and had movies made of his books? (His prose was often published in prominent American magazines, too.)
11.Who has sold more poetry books than any other Canadian poet? (He was a mere bank teller when he became our most famous, quoted writer of his time.)
12.Who is the first significant Aboriginal-Canadian woman writer who had an international following? (She has a cairn dedicated to her in Stanley Park, Vancouver.)
13.Which widely-read, best-selling, sardonic Canadian woman writer has written in all genres and developed her own digital autograph pen to reduce effort at signings?
14.Which famous popular children’s story by Roch Carrier was quoted on the old Canadian $5 bill?
15.Who was the first prolific, widely-read French-speaking woman writer whose work was published in both English and French in Canada? (She was born in St. Boniface, MB, and her childhood home is now an historic literary attraction.)

Bonus question freebie–count for a bonus correct answer (quiz remains out of 15 regardless)
Who was ‘Samuel Marchbanks’, the Massey College master of trilogy novels in Canada?

1. “In Flanders Fields” John McCrae
2. Governor-General’s Award
3. Leonard Cohen
4. Lucy Maude Montgomery
5. Two Solitudes
6. Margaret Laurence
7. Stephen Leacock
8. Who Has Seen the Wind
9. Alice Munro
10.Mordecai Richler
11.Robert Service
12.Pauline Johnson
13.Margaret Atwood
14.”The Hockey Sweater”
15.Gabrielle Roy
bonus: Robertson Davies


Ignorant/Poor/Insufficient 0-5: You know little or nothing about this country’s great literary heritage and culture regardless of how much education you have. You need to familiarize yourself more with our country’s literature. You may be a newcomer to Canada who’s passed the basic test on Canadian culture and lifestyle in order to become a Canadian or be a victim of the gutting of basic Canadian information, literature, history, and culture in schools, universities, and government libraries (begun under Stephen Harper).

Average to Good 6-10: At some point you’ve read or studied some Canadian literature and are familiar with some of the key names from CanLit history. You should feel some national cultural and educational pride. Give yourself a pat on the back for knowing basic facts and important information about our country’s writers and core, bedrock literature highlights.

Knowledgeable/Proficient 11-15: You were likely educated before 1990 A.D. in this country and may even have studied several Canadian writers and works. You are likely well-educated and actually know pre-2000 Canadian literature facts and highlights quite well. You are a true Canadiana fan who may also have a reasonable background in literature, literary studies, and books of our nation.

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