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370 LETTERS IN CANADA: 1964 Finally, Contact Press has given us Alain Grandbois' Selected Poems (pp. xii, 101, $4.00 cloth, $3.00 paper), a bilingual edition of twentythree poems by the most durable and persistently influential of the older generation of living French-Canadian poets. The translations, which do not try to recreate the poetry into another language, but simply to follow the original with line-by-line devotion, are by one of our most experienced and responsible translators of poetry, Peter Miller. FICTION F. W. Watt This has been an unusually interestiog year for readers of Canadian fiction. Margaret Laurence, with a collection of stories and her second novel, emerged as a writer of significance and power, confirming the impressions recorded in my review of This Side Jordan here in 1961. Henry Kreisel, having kept his readers waiting for some fifteen years, returned to the novel form in which he once had such success with The Rich Man. And Hugh Hood produced an ingenious and complex work, for the first time in this more extended form, following his admirable collection of short stories, Flying a Red Kite, reviewed here in 1963. At a different level of interest, but engaging nevertheless, were two first novels of exceptional candour, books dealing with several varieties of erotic deviation and demonstrating how far the sexual iosurrection in Canadian fiction has spread. The surprise of the year, however, was Douglas LePan's novel The Deserter (McClelland & Stewart, pp. vi, 298, $5.95). LePan was already known and admired as a poet, though perhaps not widely, and the war themes and settiogs of The Wounded Prince and The Net and the Sword are obviously part of the same sensibility and experience from which his first novel grew. But the poems, with their recurring struggle to maintaio the fullest perspectives of a humane, civilized, and contemplative mind in face of the narrowing urgencies of the battle-field, are lyrical and subjective. There is little in these erudite and subtle poems to suggest that ability to construct a recognizable world and a significant action which novelists as different as Fielding and Joyce, Jane Austen and Virginia Woolf, have all possessed. The Deserter is for me nevertheless a genuine and not merely a "poet's novel"- which is what critics call a botched book with eloquent passages by a poet they like. LePan is not so natural a novelist as is, for example, Margaret Laurence. But he has shaped for himself the kind of novel which allows him to FICTION 371 escape from limitations which would have crippled a lesser writer of fiction, and which enables him to express in a memorable way a profound vision of the nature and meaning of modern life. To discuss this vision is to suggest an abstractness which is not characteristic of the book. Though its pattern has intellectual, even philosophical meaning its detail is largely concrete; its language typically uses the most vivid kind of imagery which echoes and re-echoes itself with growing resonance throughout the novel. The post-war world is shown as a sort of armed camp where power is always kept as far as possible on duty, disciplined and ready for action; but the Second World War had recently given terrible proof of the blindness, if not the fundamental evil, of the society which, through its soldiers, its police, its public and private forces, this power served. "... When a society had revealed so brutally its ultimate thrust and meaning it was only natural that some should decide to desert it. ..." And so we have the deserter, a soldier who always "wanted to be in the thick of things," who was tempered and perfected in and for battle, but who, now that the imperatives of simple action are gone, now that peace had come and "the focus of activity had changed," is bafHed and alienated. We see him first "looking into the sky as though it were the face of someone he had known, even someone he had loved, but hlank, blank ... as though it had lost its reason." The alternative to a place in the service of established society, "the world of schedules and obligations," the...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1712-5278
Print ISSN
0042-0247
Pages
pp. 370-383
Launched on MUSE
2015-07-01
Open Access
No
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