Page 61 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 51

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literature, the binding character of the controversy remains the
problem itself — as if
distinctive characteristic of American-
Jewish cultural life were its continuous, obsessive evaluation of
its commitment to the
of Eastern Europe (memory)
and to the instruments of American progress (reason)” (Fried,
p. 4). Certainly this duality of memory and reason applies equal­
ly to the Canadian-Jewish experience, but Canadian progress
is less obtrusive and less binding than its American counterpart,
while the role of Eastern European memory may be even stron­
To name, to tell a story, is to confer identity. Our writers
have told the Canadian-Jewish story for almost the past fifty
years, but as the story and the identity shift from immigrant
marginality toward some vague Canadian mainstream, some­
thing may get lost in the transition. Because Canada has placed
more constraint on its minorities, the hyphenated identity has
not been so erased; and to the extent that alienation has been
exhausted, so too has the creative enterprise. Uncle Sam eclipses
Uncle Melech.
Despite the occasional bright light, the future of Canadian-
Jewish poetry and fiction does not look promising for a dimin­
ishing reading public.4 Perhaps one ought to look to cinema
for the presence of Jewish talent, but the flickering image on
the screen somehow undermines the more traditional, stable
iconography of established religion. And nobody will chase Ev­
eryman across the screen of memory as Hollywood’s surfaces
displace Holy Writ’s deeper meanings. As Canadian-Jewish lit­
erature looks south for Jewish significance and north towards
a Canadian void, the double gaze results in a vertigo that threat­
ens to cancel any clear sense of its own identity. When beautiful
losers and sons of lesser heroes play their favorite games in
the snow, they settle for a black-and-white image instead of the
technicolor of the Stars and Stripes, or the blue-and-white of
the Israeli Star of David. The Laurentian Shield remains largely
impervious to Jewish identity, while the
Magen David
Even as the Leviathan of the St. Lawrence engulfed its immi­
grants, so the expansive Canadian Shield swallows Jewish his­
tory. Eli Mandel, poet of the prairies and marker of time, re­
4. The poetry o f Seymour Mayne, Kenneth Sherman, and Shel Krakofsky
has yet to reach a wider audience.