Page 60 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 51

Basic HTML Version

52
JEWISH BOOK ANNUAL
war which haunts the innocent landscape and innocent Cana­
dian citizens. In contrast to Richler, Cohen, and Ludwig whose
characters frequently look south to the United States for Jewish
significance, Kreisel ends his novel with a romantic quest to
the Arctic wilderness for a sense of unity, but that unity occurs
only in death, a northern nothingness or blank that has to be
filled with writing. Just as Kreisel’s globe is broken into two
hemispheres, so the great divide for his sense of history is the
Holocaust. As in the case of Klein, dislocation and detour in­
form Kreisel’s writing.
In addition to these two novels Kreisel has published a col­
lection of short stories that includes “The Almost Meeting” —
a fictional account of his unsuccessful attempt to meet A.M.
Klein. Alexander Budak (Kreisel) describes the Canadian-
Jewish poetry and fiction of David Lasker (Klein) in a way that
epitomizes Canadian-Jewish literature in general: “Often in his
writing people of different nationalities came together and al­
most touched, only to find themselves pulled apart again” (p.
12). He offers here a paradigm of the Canadian-Jewish expe­
rience where the hyphen underlines the
almost
touching of two
identities, two ethnicities, two solitudes, and an incomplete rec­
onciliation between voiceless, invisible nobody and a vocal, vis­
ible Everyman.
When Budak tries to visit Lasker at his home, he rings the
bell but “nobody came to the door,” and as he tells the taxi
driver — “Nobody home.” On the one hand, Budak’s “nobody
home” echoes through Canadian-Jewish literature’s sense of ex­
ile; on the other hand, Lasker’s written words — “An almost
meeting is often more important than the meeting. The quest
is all” (p. 17) — summarize the unending chase in this body
of writing. The Wandering Jew is rarely at rest in these almost
meetings of the ceaselessly flowing lines of poetry and fiction
beginning with A.M. Klein.
CANADA AND AMERICA
In defining Canadian-Jewish literary representation of its so­
ciety, one may begin (and end) by qualifying the larger
American-Jewish experience. Thus, Lewis Fried’s characteriza­
tion
almost
applies to Canada: “Amidst debates over what con­
stitutes the identity of the American-Jewish community and its