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HUGH MAcLENNAN Fiction in Canada - 1930 to 1980 I Ihave been asked to write about Canadian fiction in English between '930 and '980, with particular emphasis on the opportunities open to our novelists today in comparison to the past. Canada was still an innocent country when I began to write. If she is not so any more, it is because she has at last become a full-fledged member of twentieth-century society. That this has been an appalling century can hardly be disputed by anyone capable of thought. I remember an eminent English thinker, some thirty years ago, commiserating with a large Canadian audience on our misfortune to have come of age in such a time. I am far from being alone in believing that the only man who could truly understand the essence of our century was Jonathan Swift, with his insight that reason combined with applied science, built into a Yahoo, would be more horrifying in its results than ignorant brutality. Nevertheless, our nation is still worthy of love. She has not sold her soul outright to the men of greed and power. She still has a conscience and this may be why she finds it so difficult to make up her mind even about herself. But at least we all know that Canada can no longer rely on others to solve her problems for her. Perhaps this is the final meaning of a loss of innocence. When I began my career the last thing I wanted to be labelled was a Canadian writer. I merely wished to become a writer. We all did, then. In "930 our only novelist who had evolved out of the bush-league formulas ofbackwoodsmen, wild animals, coureursdes bois, and Loyalistsettlerswas Morley Callaghan. Inevitably he by-passed Toronto and published his first novel in New York, as I myself was to do some thirteen years later. Morley's course was swift and direct. Mine was slow and confused. Had I grown up in Toronto, even without associating as Morley did with those famous American expatriates in Paris, my situation as a beginning novelist might have been Simpler. Toronto is not the New York ofCanada, as I once heard it described by a Canadian. It is the Toronto of Canada, as I heard an American rebut the remark. Before Calgary got rich it was the most 'American' city we had, yet it was unmistakably itself until the influx of ethnics diluted the crudity of its puritanism. Recently I heard an American businessman pronounce that Toronto is the only city on the continent in which the American dream has been fulfilled. Such statements are provocative and perhaps meaningless. The University of ) 0 HUGH MACLENNAN Toronto is no Princeton or Yale, for which I say so thank we all our God. Yet in the near past Torontonians spoke in the idiom of the northern states and Morley Callaghan - no WASP, he - read their minds perfectly in his earlier novels and stories. But I hope this superbly honest writer and gallant human being will not take offence if I suggest that his frnest novels were The Loved and the Lost and The Many Colored Coat. They were novels of his maturity, and he set them in Montreal. Myself, I was born in Cape Breton, where at the time a quarter of the population spoke Gaelic, and I grew up in Halifax where the speech idiom was half-way between Old England and New England. Ontario was far, far away. In my childhood I studied the ships, saw thousands of English sailors rolling along the downtown streets with the names of their cruisers written in golden letters on the headbands of their caps. I was a Canadian, but England was closer to me than Canada. In my late twenties , when after four years in England and Europe and three in the United States I finally found a depression job, I carne to Montreal. I have lived there ever since and cannot agree with a pronouncement Irecently heard, that Montreal is becoming the Boston of Canada. At any rate, Montrealers never spoke in the idiom of the United States even when they spoke English. I say all this...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1712-5278
Print ISSN
0042-0247
Pages
pp. 29-42
Launched on MUSE
2014-07-02
Open Access
No
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