Page 80 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 31

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JEWISH BOOK ANNUAL
76
Cha ir
is the best interpretation of French Canada by an English
poet.״ He had attained full blossomry; he wrote with a more
fervent lyricism buttressed by bold, buoyant utterances, a pro-
fusion of fine imagery, and a vivacious sophistication. Unques-
tionably his best book of verse, it was awarded the Governor Gen-
eral’s Medal. Klein's earlier poems were the fruitage of his Jew-
ish inheritance; you saw the Jew in living flesh, you heard his
voice, you felt his pain. He does the same for Montreal and
Quebec in these poems. His characters are not only Quebecers—
they are, like his Jewish characters, integral to the human race.
They transcend parochial lineaments. Klein’s brilliant vignettes
of French-Canadian life demonstrate how a poet who values and
understands his own heritage and community may develop an
understanding of another and still remain loyal to his own.
It is amazing that one volume can contain so many magnificent
poems that are worthy enough to endure. A few are enumerated
here among the many that impressed this writer: “The Portrait
of the Poet as Landscape," “The Rocking Chair,” “Political
Meeting,” “Monsieur Gaston,” “Lone Bather,” “Dress Manu-
facturer: Fisherman,” “The Break-Up,” “Filles Majeures,” “The
Cripple,” and the profoundly moving description, “Winter Night,
Mount Royal.” One can perceive changes in Klein since his first
volume
H a th N o t A Jew ;
but in
T h e R o c k in g Cha ir
we learn
that the basic, essential Klein remains unchanged.
T h e Second Scroll,
an allegorical novel, is Klein’s most impor-
tant prose work. Its five chapters correspond to the five books of
the Pentateuch; these are followed by five “Glosses” on the “Five
Books of Moses,” written in prose, in poetry, and in form of
prayers. It ends with, “For the Day, Psalm the Thirtieth .” I t is
a gripping tour de force.
The novel’s genesis was unusual. After World War 2, when
European Jewry was decimated and Medinat Israel was reborn,
the Canadian Jewish Congress commissioned Klein to visit Eu-
rope, Africa, and Israel, so that he could bring a first-hand report
to North American Jewry. He rendered a graphic report at the
Plenary Session of the Canadian Jewish Congress, but the unan-
ticipated fruit of his odyssey was
T h e Second Scroll,
whose theme
is the Jewish messianic vision and the wandering Jew.
In the novel Klein takes off on a mythical search for a legendary
uncle
M e lech D av id son
(the King, son of David, an allusion to