Page 76 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 31

Basic HTML Version

After completing high school, he entered McGill University in
1927, and was graduated with a B.A. degree; he also acquired a
good conversance with French, English, Hebrew and Yiddish lit-
erature. He continued his studies at the University of Montreal,
which awarded him the LL.D. degree in 1933.
Klein was elected president of the Canadian Young Judea or-
ganization while still at McGill; later, while serving as editor of
he engaged in translation from the Hebrew poetry
of Hayyim Nahman Bialik, Avigdor Hameiri, Uri Tzvi Green-
berg, Rachel, Abraham Shlonsky and Moshe Smilansky, and three
volumes from the Yiddish, including works of I. L. Peretz, Shmuel
Yosef Agnon, Jacob Glatstein, and the Canadian poet and essay-
ist Jacob Isaac Segal. He became a partner in a Montreal law
firm, after having served as educational director and assistant ex-
ecutive director of the Zionist Organization of Canada. For
three years (1943-46) he enjoyed tenure as visiting lecturer in
poetry at McGill University. In 1948 he ran unsuccessfully for
Parliament in Montreal.
A. M. Klein was never even remotely vexed by the conflict
between tradition and assimilation that plagues many of our
successful Jewish writers in America. The question of identity
was never a crisis in his career. He regarded himself—and was
also regarded by his literary contemporaries, both Jewish and
non-Jewish—not only as the twentieth century voice of his peo-
pie, but also as the voice of Canada. Happily, he cultivated a
fruitful symbiosis between the two. His themes of martyrdom,
persecution, fate and destiny, which are indigenous to the phi-
losophy of Judaism, are presented with a sublimity that tran-
scends narrow parochialism. When A. J. M. Smith—well-known
Canadian poet, critic and anthologist—edited
The Oxford Book
of Canadian Verse,
he dedicated it to the superb Canadian poet
E. J. Pratt and to A. M. Klein “in homage with love.” In review-
ing Klein’s
Hi t ler iad,
E. J. Pratt wrote:
. . Klein could appeal
to us on the basis of a moral culture common to Jew and Gentile,
that of the Hebrew prophet and psalmist.”
This aspect of “a moral culture common to Jew and Gentile,”
emerges in Klein’s poetry and prose, in the universal values he
emphasizes. He does not compromise his “Jewish insights”; he
provides them with wings to soar into his readers’ ken with cos-
mic meanings. The pernicious attributes endemic to human na­