- Like One That Dreamed: A Portrait of A.M. Klein by Usher Caplan, and: Beyond Sambation: Selected Essays and Periodicals 1921–1955 ed. by A.M. Klein (review)
- University of Toronto Quarterly
- University of Toronto Press
- Volume 52, Number 4, Summer 1983
- pp. 492-496
- View Citation
- Additional Information
492 LETTERS IN CANADA 1982 to 'economic or class injustice: and to find the solution to his characters' problems in spiritual rather than material (Le. social) terms. There is considerably more of interest here than this reviewer has space to comment on. There are glowing and intelligent personal tributes to MacLennan by Robert Kroetsch, Solange Chaput-Rolland, Marian Engel, and Constance Beresford-Howe, and frequently enlightening critical responses to the major papers. But what must be said is that the proceedings of the conference powerfully suggest two vital facts. First, that literary criticism in Canada is often served best by interdisciplinary techniques. Second, and more important, as most of the critical approaches at the conference suggest and Keith's paper states directly, a slavish imitation of the latest post-modernist fashions in critical theory is not in the best interests of a productive examination of the marvellous 'engagement' between writer and society which is a defining characteristic of our literature, and which MacLennan's work so clearly exemplifies . If that work continues to provoke a critical examination of that social 'fact' in our fiction, even in defiance of those fashions, our debt to him will be even greater. (ROGER HYMAN) Usher Caplan. Like One That Dreamed: A Portrait of A.M. Klein McGraw-Hill Ryerson. 2"4, illus. $24.95 A.M. Klein. Beyond Sambation: Selected Essays and Periodicals 1921>-1955 Edited by M.W. Steinberg and Usher Caplan University of Toronto Press. xxi, 541. $29.95 An ancient Hebrew commentary on Ecclesiastes, 'Every man has three names: one that his father and mother gave him, one that others call him, and one in the scroll of his creation: is remarkably appropriate to A.M. Klein, whose poetry evokes the history of himself, his people, and to a lesser extent his fellow Canadians. During his lifetime he was hailed by A.J.M. Smith as 'the greatest poet living to-day in Canada: but the essence of Klein is to be found mainly in the scrolls of his creation - not in the poetry only, but in letters, autobiographical writings, fiction, criticism , and journalism, a good sampling of which is now available in the books under review. These and the projected collections of his literary criticism, his short stories, and Complete Poems promise that the 1980s will be Klein's decade. The two titles convey the elusive quality of Klein's personality and otherworldliness - his vision of a universe in which miracles are possible and man is in harmony with himself and others (a world totally unlike the one he inhabited). The Klein who emerges from the biography is divided against himself. His uncertainties about and dissatisfaction with HUMANITIES 493 his vocations as lawyer, lecturer in English at McGill, his friendship with David Lewis and ventures into politics as CCF candidate while at the same time writing speeches for distillery magnate Samuel Bronfman, and his simultaneous desire to devote his life to poetry and to achieve material and worldy success are outward manifestations of inner turmoil. One issue apparently at the core of his conflict was his inability to come to terms with the Jewish religion - a faith he could neither wholly reject nor accept. On the one hand, Caplan notes, he 'virtually gave up all religiOUS practice'; on the other, Klein tells us (and here the Essays help enrich and extend the biography) that he carried his phylacteries with him on his trip to Israel. There can hardly be a more telling example of the strength of his emotional and spiritual bond to the faith of his ancestors and his own early life than his unwillingness to forgo these artefacts associated with religious practice and essential to a highly spiritualized ceremony connoting that all the faculties and senses are devoted to God. As many who knew him attest, Klein could not make compromises. He wanted to live fully in all worlds, and Caplan graphically evokes many of these worlds in his attractively bound and compiled Portrait with its intimate foreword by Klein's fellow student at McGill, Leon Edel. Details of Klein's life are augmented with photographs, reproductions from newspapers and other sources, and excerpts from Klein's work...