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Literature

 

Introduction

 

Canadian literature has been “marked from the very beginning by cultural difference” (W.H. New: Encyclopedia of Literature in Canada. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2002, p. 265), and has spoken in many voices. Recognition of this fact was slow in coming; Margaret Atwood’s Survival. A Thematic Guide to Canadian Literature (1972) was among the first significant explorations by established writers/critics of the place of the immigrant experience and the work of immigrant writers in the Canadian literary canon.

 

John Marlyn’s Under the Ribs of Death (1957) is considered to be a classic of the genre of immigrant writing in Canada; the novel’s hero, young Sandor Hunyadi, tries hard to deny his immigrant and ethnic heritage. From the 1960’s and 1970’s on, with a much more open immigration policy, the diversity of Canadian literature reflected more and more the diversity of Canada’s peoples.

 

Today, some of Canada’s best-known writers are immigrants or of immigrant origin (think of prize-winning authors such as Neil Bissoondath, Dionne Brand, Wayson Choy, Naim Kattan, Rohinton Mistry, Michael Ondaatje, Shani Mootoo,  Nino Ricci, Régine Robin, Moyez Vassanji – not forgetting ”our own” George Jonas and Anna Porter).

 

Within this plurality, Hungarian Canadians have also found a space. A year or two ago the Writers’ Union of Canada’s membership list  included 11 writers of Hungarian origin. Both major Canadian literary encyclopedias (by W.H. New above and the 1997 edition of the Oxford Companion to Canadian Literature) include sections on Hungarian connections in Canadian literature.Generally, those who write in English (not too many in French) or whose works have been translated into English and French are better-known.

 

Among these are: Tamas Dobozy, George Faludy, George Jonas, Judith Kalman, Elaine Kalman Naves, George Payerle, Anna Porter, Richard Teleky, Eva Tihanyi, Pablo Urbanyi, Stephen Vizinczey, Robert Zend.  A number of others who have continued to write in Hungarian, are not known to the general Canadian reading public. In the early days of Canadian literature, there were many writers who wrote and published in their mother tongue (often in newspapers). John Miska’s monumental bibliography, Ethnic and Native Canadian Literature (1980 and 1990) includes these writers, as did his various anthologies; and George Bisztray’s Hungarian-Canadian Literature (1987) surveys and comments on their work. Perhaps as a sign of the acceptance of linguistic plurality and  cultural integration, the most recent anthology of Hungarian Canadian authors includes writers who work in English (or another language) and also those who work in Hungarian. This is Blessed Harbours. An Anthology of Hungarian-Canadian Authors (edited by John Miska, Guernica, 2002) – admittedly, the Hungarian works have been translated into English.

 

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