Queen's Quarterly

Queen's Quarterly
Queen's Quarterly

Playing for Life

Peter Unwin

Spring 2021 - Playing for Life


“We’re getting murdered, Dad. We are getting so-oo murdered.”

Fifteen minutes earlier my two girls had left the house, heavily armed, on what I took to be a routine search and destroy mission. In the alley they were immediately ambushed by the enemy and forced to retreat, which they did without panic, laying down covering fire for each other with their squirt guns, and managing to fall back to the yard.

They were engaging in the very heartbeat of play, the very essence of the thing – the attempt to claim new territory, the attempt to get it back. The essence of war, as well. Philosophers tell us that the language of war and the language of play are remarkably the same language. What is more, it has always been this way, since Homer and before. Play, they insist, is a precondition of life …


Peter Unwin is the author of numerous books, including the novel Searching for Petronius Totem and the story collection Life Without Death, shortlisted for the Trillium Book Award. He is currently completing graduate work at York University. His latest novel, Written in Stone, has just been released by Cormorant Books, and his poetry collection The Infinite Park will be released this spring. He lives in Toronto with his wife and two daughters.