Page 52 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 51

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JEWISH BOOK ANNUAL
between socialism and capitalism, bu t Klein transcends these
differences in his mythic vision at the end o f the novel. A new
name and new language emerge af te r Melech’s death .
On one side, these double names and images veer in the d i­
rection o f Everyman; on the o th e r side, however, the multiple
exposure risks tu rn ing into nobody, the
lamed vavnik
o r one
o f the invisible thirty-six righteous men whom Klein found so
fascinating. T h e novel’s concluding, ambivalent Canadian-
Jewish tu rn fu r th e r raises the question o f
teshuva,
the Hebraic
moral response o r re tu rn to faith. Indeed , Klein employs this
key verb “to tu rn ” at some o f the most strategic moments in
his work. At the end o f the final poem in
The Second Scroll,
for instance, he concludes his “Psalm” with “T hou has tu rn ed
for me my m ou rn ing into gladness,” which echoes the conclu­
sion o f the earlier “Stance o f the Am idah”: “tu rn ing o f Thy
face.” All o f these turn ings highlight the transitional na tu re o f
Canadian Jewry in its fiction and poetry tha t transform s the
old into the new while taking risky detours.
During its period o f initiation Canadian-Jewish literature , be­
ginning with
The Second Scroll,
explores the status o f a n o r th e rn
nobody alienated from New York, London, o r Jerusa lem , and
the assimilated Everyman who risks losing himself o r herse lf
in a universal mainstream. This bifocal vision is essentially trag i­
comic; tha t is, it combines the tragic disintegration o f the Hol­
ocaust with the rein tegration o f Israel and prosperity in North
America. As they gain a fu r th e r sense o f identity and security,
the writers tend to move freely between myth and satire in the ir
represen tation o f Canadian-Jewish life in the second ha lf o f the
twentieth century.
Klein’s poem “Autobiographical,” appended to the “Genesis”
chap ter o f
The Second Scroll,
charts the progress o f a “Jewboy”
ou t o f Montreal’s ghetto streets to conclude with a vision o f
“a fabled city.” T h e poem thus incorporates a Canadian-Jewish
rite o f passage, a “sobbing deligh t” o f the tragicomic vision, and
the mythic dimension o f a fabled city arising ou t o f a Hebrew
and Yiddish heritage — all o f which reflect Canadian-Jewish
life up from u rban slums. T h e child-poet who dream s pavement
into pleasant Bible-land follows in the millennial footsteps o f
impoverished Jews who faced harsh realities by transfo rm ing
them into biblical visions — history’s mythical escape rou te p rac­