Page 53 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 51

Basic HTML Version

ticed by first-generation Jews in Montreal, Toron to , and Win­
nipeg.
QUEST FOR IDENTITY
During Klein’s final silent years Canadian-Jewish literature
came o f age as o th e r poets and novelists gave voice to his earlier
example. In Montreal, Irving Layton drew upon the prophetic
tradition to attack modern m an ’s inhumanity and to satirize both
the Canadian WASP establishment and the Jewish nouveaux
riches. Klein’s lament in “Portrait o f the Poet as Landscape”
— “O schizoid solitudes!. . . Who live for themselves,/ o r for each
o ther, bu t for nobody else” — echoes in Layton’s po rtra it o f
Montreal’s landscape. “In Montreal the dom inan t ethnic groups
stared at one ano ther balefully across the ir self-erected ghetto
walls. T h re e solitudes” (p. 144). Layton explains the d ifferen t
experience in crossing French-Canadian and English-Canadian
borders: in the fo rm e r territo ry he was a warrior, in the latter
a trespasser. To shed an inchoate past as nobody, the Jewish
Canadian must trespass on foreign territory in his rite o f passage
toward fuller status. Layton’s pugilistic stance against all injus­
tices dem ands tha t he tread on the Establishment’s toes and
give voice to his silenced mentor, A.M. Klein.
In fiction, Mordecai Richler satirizes Jews and Canadians alike
in the process o f “making it.” Despite his exploitation o f Mon­
trea l’s ghetto in most o f his novels, Richler finds significance
and recognition elsewhere, namely south o f the border. More
than any o th e r Canadian-Jewish writer, Richler has made some
inroads in reaching New York and establishing international
recognition, only to be overshadowed by Bellow, Malamud,
Roth, and several o the r American-Jewish novelists.
While the New York Intellectuals pou red ou t the ir polemical
essays and stories in a num be r o f prom inen t jou rna ls , Canada
p roduced no similar intellectual movement to raise its Jewish
profile. A lthough Klein published some o f his work in the Unit­
ed States, he complained about the lack o f recognition o f his
creativity by American Jews. So many prom inen t American crit­
ics happen to be Jewish; in a more Christian Canada, however,
the major literary critic has been N o rth rop Frye. But the ab­
sence o f a vociferous intellectual community is ju s t one o f the
reasons beh ind the mu ted literary contribution in Canada com­
UREENSTEIN / NOBODY CHASING EVERYMAN
45