Your cart is empty.

The Memory of Water

By Allen Smutylo
Subjects Art, Life Writing, Travel, Biography & Autobiography
Series Life Writing Hide Details
Hardcover : 9781554588428, 272 pages, January 2013
Ebook (EPUB) : 9781554588770, 272 pages, June 2014
Ebook (PDF) : 9781554588763, 272 pages, June 2014

Table of contents

Table of Contents for The Memory of Water, by Allen Smutylo
I. High Arctic Summer
II. Tobermory, 1970
III. Cape Dorset, 1989
IV. The Sydenham River, 1989
V. East Greenland, 1991
VI. Maui, 1995
VII. Bylot Island: Mike Beedell, 1999
VIII. Bylot Island: The Northwest Passage, 2000
IX. Varanasi, 2010
X. Muskox Way


Adventurer, writer, and artist Allen Smutylo has experienced some of the wildest and most captivating waters imaginable in all corners of the globe. The stories in The Memory of Water—all of them accompanied by the author’s own stunning artwork—describe his adventures in the Arctic, South Pacific, Great Lakes region, and India.
In the Arctic he is attacked by a polar bear, stalked by a rogue walrus, and nearly drowns in ferocious waters. But his Arctic stories also celebrate human creativity as they recount the life of the pre-Inuit people, who, hunting in a changing environment, endured many hardships and developed new technologies, such as the sea kayak, to cope.
Other stories include an account of a sojourn in a small Georgian Bay fishing village as a young artist, an adventure on an urban river in southwestern Ontario, and a portrayal of the complex underwater world of the South Pacific. Travelling the River Ganges in India, the author finds that a massive misuse of water is complicated by a billion people’s faith-based adoration of the same water.
The Memory of Water probes a crucial and contemporary issue—that of our relationship to water and the wildlife and human life that depends upon it. This book will appeal to anyone interested in the natural world, in artistic depictions of it, or in a good story well told.


  • Short-listed, Banff Mountain Book Competition: Adventure/Travel 2013
  • Short-listed, Edna Staebler Award for Creative Non-Fiction 2014
  • Short-listed, Governor General's Award for Non-Fiction 2013


In The Memory of Water we accompany Canadian traveller, writer, and artist Allen Smutylo on some of his journeys. The ten stories span great geographical distances as well as a large period of time, from Tobermory in 1970 to Varanasi in 2010. As Smutylo writes in his introduction, these stories share the presence of water, be it oceans, rivers, snow, or icebergs. The stories are humourous and political, personal and historical. Most are thought-provoking and highly engaging. In addition, several of these accounts show signs of Smutylo’s perspectives as an artist with references to viewpoints, colours, light, shadow and movement. In my mind, it is exactly this artistic view that makes this publication interesting to read. In particular, I was captured by Smutylo’s thoughts on the representation of people and places. These thoughts deal with practical challenges (How to convey the movement of water? How to portray the reticent knifemaker?), as well as issues of a philosophical character, such as when he reflects upon how artists embellish in order to see things in new ways or when he writes about the role of the kayak in his art. Throughout, these ponderings are accompanied and supplemented by Smutylo’s diverse and truly beautiful artwork.

- Janicke S. Kaasa, Canadian Literature