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Where the World Was

Where the World Was

304 pages
Published:   September 19, 2023
Non-Fiction  /  Travel
Paperback:   9781773102818    $24.95

“As a poet and writer, [Rosemary Sullivan] knows that life is lived not as theory but as practice, that . . . you can understand nothing about a place without listening to individual people and their stories.” — Margaret Atwood

Incomparable writer, activist, and world traveller Rosemary Sullivan has at long last written a book about herself, about her life quest to “meet the world, to celebrate its richness, to face its darkness.”

And what a fascinating book it is! Comprised of 21 essays spanning 5 decades and multiple continents, Where the World Was offers a vivid portrait of a writer who is instinctively drawn to other cultures and places.

Whether writing about a solo vacation inside the Iron Curtain, meeting the reclusive writer Elizabeth Smart in a dilapidated cottage in the English countryside, reflecting on how Chilean society responded to Pinochet’s coup, or tracking down the people who knew Svetlana Alliluyeva for Stalin’s Daughter, Sullivan delivers a master class in cultural studies, human rights advocacy, and empathy for the human condition.
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Rosemary Sullivan is the bestselling author of 16 books of biography, memoir, poetry, travelogue, and short fiction. Her books include Shadow Maker: The Life of Gwendolyn MacEwen, Villa Air-Bel: World War II, Escape and a House in Marseille, and Stalin’s Daughter. Sullivan has worked with Amnesty International since 1979. In 1980 she founded The Writer and Human Rights to aid its activities. She was appointed an Officer of the Order of Canada in 2012.


In Where the World Was, Rosemary Sullivan investigates our planet with compelling aesthetic, biographical, and political engagement. Her reader cannot help but be both captivated and enthused. A truly engrossing travel experience.” — Jane Urquhart, author of A Number of Things

“Thank goodness for Rosemary Sullivan, a woman who runs towards life with courage and curiosity, recording what she encounters with ecstatic artistic attention — a life of journeys that cracked open her self and shaped her into one of Canada’s finest writers.” — Merilyn Simonds, author of Woman, Watching

“Few writers have done more to elevate the craft of literary nonfiction in this country than Rosemary Sullivan. Here, finally, are the stories behind the stories that inspired her art, won her acclaim, and cemented her reputation as an icon of Canadian literature. A swashbuckling journey through the life and mind of a writer obsessed with a simple question: ‘What drives a life?’ Her answer: loving obsession.” — Andrew Westoll, author of The Chimps of Fauna Sanctuary

“From Canada to Russia, from Chile to Egypt, Sullivan’s inquisitive, intelligent, and compassionate eye explores for us the world of yesterday and also of today. This collection is literary journalism at its very best.” — Alberto Manguel, author of Maimonides: Faith in Reason

“Sullivan’s Where the World Was is a compelling and enlightening memoir that skillfully navigates the intersections of lives and stories. Her remarkable storytelling ability, coupled with her keen observations and insatiable curiosity, paints a vivid portrait of a truly fascinating individual. Whether the reader is an avid reader, an aspiring writer, or simply a seeker of captivating tales, this book is sure to leave a lasting mark.” — Atlantic Books Today

“Sullivan has led a full life, this is clear, but she keeps the focus on others in this book.” — Miramichi Reader

“Readers may notice connections between this empathetic reporting and Sullivan’s more recent works, including Villa Air-Bel: World War II, Escape, and a House in Marseille. All along, a genuine conscientiousness has been evolving through her research and travel.” — Literary Review of Canada

“Combining elements of both a travel book and a personal memoir, Sullivan’s Where the World Was is a well-written and engaging account of a writer’s exploration of wide-ranging locations around the world and encounters with some of the people who have been important in her life.” — Winnipeg Free Press