Canadian publishers slow to recognize esteemed international writers living in the country

Reza Baraheni, an exiled Iranian writer living in Toronto, is one of several acclaimed international writers contending that foreign writers residing in Canada are excluded from the publishing community. Edward Keenan considers this charge in Eye Weekly and says:

The complaint seems [odd] when one considers that foreign-born writers such as Michael Ondaatje, Rohinton Mistry and M.G. Vassanji are among Canada’s highest-profile writers. Yet all three of them come from post-colonial (i.e., culturally familiar) countries with histories of English-language culture. And all three, perhaps more notably, came to Canada young and established their literary reputations here. CanLit, young and fragile and just beginning to stand proudly in the world, has claimed such writers as its own.

This is not so in the case of Canadian writers who have built literary reputations elsewhere (the one obvious exception being Josef Skvorecky, who won the Governor General’s award in 1984 for a novel written in Czech and translated into English). Baraheni, for example, is the author of more than 50 books of poetry, fiction and literary criticism in his native Iran and around the world. Harper’s Magazine has called Baraheni “Iran’s finest living poet.” He’s been living in Canada for seven years, since fleeing imprisonment and attempted assassinations at home. He has yet to have a book published by a Canadian press.

(Via Good Reports.)


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