A. M. Klein: Poet & Prophet

A M Klein, the son of Ukrainian Jewish immigrants, was guided throughout his entire life by tolerance. Opposed to ghettos of any kind, he dreamed of a country where all could live according to their beliefs and religion. One might expect that, inspired by such noble sentiments, Klein would have lived a happy and peaceful life, but such was not the case. His life was strewn with obstacles. There were professional problems for a young lawyer fresh out of law school, beginning his career at the depth of the economic depression. He met political defeat when he sought election as a federal member of Parliament. His literary career, too, brought disappointment; even though he received the Governor General's Award for Poetry in 1948, his writings (now studied in universities) were never as widely published during his lifetime as he hoped. And there were personal problems as well; after working tirelessly as a journalist and columnist to defend the Jewish fact and its rightful place in Canada, A M Klein lapsed into a silence that lasted for eighteen years! This is a story that carries us into the cultural ferment of the Jewish community in Montreal before and after the Second World War. Klein (who mastered four languages) wrote Jewish poetry in English and considered himself a 'Quebec writer'. Klein believed that the boundaries between language groups were artificial and that, to survive, Canada must recognise its diversity. His legacy of tolerance and reconciliation remains with us today.