Randy Boyagoda looks at two Canadian authors and the books published by the country they emigrated from
He is a huge fan of Brian Moore, the late novelist and screenwriter from Northern Ireland who later emigrated to Canada, and John Metcalf, the English-born Canadian writer, editor and critic.
Boyagoda spoke to Shelagh Rogers about two books — short story collection The Dear Departed by Brian Moore and Medals and Prizes by John Metcalf — and how viewpoints shift when two Canadians are published and read in the countries they emigrated from decades earlier.
The Dear Departed by Brian Moore
"What struck me about The Dear Departed was that the short story collection is the first time that Moore has been published directly in his native Northern Ireland. That struck me as unexpected, given his long-standing profile and the significance of Irish experience to his writing and his strong standing in the United Kingdom more broadly.
"It was interesting to imagine what it would mean for someone who has had a Canadian and international literary career to have that kind of a literary homecoming. Moore in his own personal life was intentional and pushing back against Irish experience itself, and against his early life and his time there.
It was interesting to then imagine what it would mean for someone, who has had a Canadian and international literary career, to have that kind of a literary homecoming.
"Whenever his Irish experience figures in his later work, it's not a generally positive rendering of Irish experience. But the early stories of Moore's that are very much about Irish experience, where there's a strong autobiographical frame to them."
Medals and Prizes by John Metcalf
"John Metcalf would be probably known to many Canadians as a long-time prominent editor of Canadian writers. He was also a very accomplished short story writer in his own right. He has been a prominent figure in Canadian literary life for many decades now.
What's interesting is that, having published many, many books of short fiction and nonfiction in Canada over the years, he had never been published in his native England.
"What's interesting is that, having published many, many books of short fiction and nonfiction in Canada over the years, he had never been published in his native England.
"The stories that struck me in this collection were the ones about youthful experiences and young life. There is, as with Moore, an intensity that kind of goes beyond… it's a satire and withering critique, matched to polished prose."
Randy Boyagoda's comments have been edited for length and clarity.