Page 36 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 40

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JEWISH BOOK ANNUAL
patched to internm ent camps in C an ada . A fter a year and a h a l f
Kreisel was re leased to the custody o f a Jew ish family and re ­
sumed his in terrup ted education which took him to a ca reer as
university p ro fe s so r and adm in istrator.
K reisel’s two novels, The Rich Man (1948) and The Betrayal
(1964), build upon elements o f persona l exper ience to p resen t
moral and psychological complexities arou sed by the Eu ropean
turmoil. Th e first is an account o f pathetic duplicity in pre-war
Vienna; the second, a story o f a single survivor’s attempt-to find
justice in post-war Canada . The Rich Man is a comic-tragic tale o f
disguise and de speration in which an imm igran t to C an ad a who
labors as a poorly-paid tailor fulfills his cherished dream to revisit
his family in Vienna. In the threatening political a tm osphere , the
impoverished , helpless family mistake the visitor’s few trapp ing s
for wealth, while he finds irresistable the temptation to play the
role o f rich man. In their desperation he is their salvation, and his
appearance at the moment o f their greatest need is read as a
divine sign. But he is wretched in the knowledge o f his pow erless­
ness to intervene. T h e final revelations o f the novel crush all hope
d ispelling forever the mutual fantasy o f deliverance.
The Betrayal takes the form o f a revenge story in which a
wronged son traces to Canada the man he holds responsible for
his paren ts’ betrayal to the Nazis. Once again Kreisel’s interest
centers on the psychological, on the human pred icam en t that
follows historical cataclysm. T h e novel is set in a Western C an a­
dian university untouched by the whirlwind, and narrated from
the point o f view o f an innocent academ ic. Bu t the novel’s central
action expand s to include its observer, draw ing him into the
vortex o f a world he can barely imagine , becom ing, finally, a test
o f his own vulnerability and commitment. He cannot evade the
obligation to bear witness.
Miriam W addington , one o f C an ad a ’s most gifted poets, has
published eight volumes o f verse since 1945. A poet-scholar, she
has also written a critical monograph on A.M. Klein and ed ited his
Collected Poems. Born in W innipeg in 1917 to a secular, literate
Russian family, she was educated in Yiddish (she has translated
extensively from the Yiddish, particularly the work o f Manger)
and brough t up in the spirit o f enlightened Jew ish human ism .
H er lyrics are delicate yet forcefu l, combining in an often rad ian t
manner two d ivergent elements: A confessional revelation o f the
subjective self, and a firm , no-nonsense gra sp o f the nature o f