06 February 2010

Ex Libris: Hugo McPherson

Nothing at all remarkable about the inscription here to critic Hugo McPherson, interest is to be found in the book itself. Nearly half a century after publication, Das Romanwerk Hugh MacLennans still ranks as one of a very few foreign language works of criticism devoted to a Canadian author. Its existence reflects the once great spread of MacLennan's work outside the English speaking world. His novels were translated into French, Japanese, Korean, Norwegian, Swedish, Estonian, Czech, Romanian, Polish and German. In Hugh MacLennan: A Writer's Life (University of Toronto, 1981), biographer Elspeth Cameron writes that between 1963 and 1969 the German language edition of Barometer Rising sold over 100,000 copies.

I venture to say that not one of these translations is in print today. Here, in his home and native land, the fall of MacLennan's star has been even more dramatic. Two of his seven novels are out of print, as are every one of his collections of essays. I'd like to think that a revival is on the horizon. In Canadian letters there are so few second acts.

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