18 October 2013

Eleven Earth and High Heavens

It's been a week since the celebration of Gwethalyn Graham at the Writers' Chapel, which isn't to say that she is no longer on my mind. Looking through my collection, I'm beginning to think that nearly all Anglo Montreal families once had a copy of Earth and High Heaven. That pictured above, published in 1948 by Bantam, was ours. I picked up my own, the Lippincott first American edition (below) from the "FREE" box at Cheap Thrills. Like Lionel Shapiro's The Sixth of June, there was a time when it was pretty thick on the ground.

Philadelphia: Lippincott, 1944
I like the Lippincott cover because it reminds me of Charles Addams; those trees are most certainly his. The English Jonathan Cape edition, which I understand to be the true first, doesn't have nearly as much going for it:   

London: Jonathan Cape, 1944
The edition I've always wanted was given away to Americans serving in the Second World War. Cheap, so cheap, it was not designed to survive – Lippincott didn't want thousands of used copies flooding the market in peacetime – but they are out there.

New Delhi: Editions for the Armed Services, 1944
Much more rare is Entre ciel et terre, the French translation. I've never seen a copy. The image below was found in my online wanderings.

Entre ciel et terre
Paris: Tallandier, 1946
Odd to think that this novel of Montreal – one that dominated bestseller lists, one that is still studied university – should have enjoyed just one printing in French translation... from a Parisian press.

Welcome to the depressing world of Canadian literature.

Outside the English-speaking world, it's the Germans – yes, the Germans – who have paid the most attention to Graham's novel.

Im Himmel und auf Erden
Nürnberg: Nest Verlag, 1948
The novel has also found a home with the Dutch, the Danes and the Finns.

Maa ja korkea taivas
Helsinki: Otava, 1947
In the nearly seven decades since Earth and High Heaven first appeared, it's pretty much retreated behind Canadian borders. The novel that once topped the New York Times Bestseller List was last published down south during the Johnson administration:  

New York: Paperback Library, 1965
While Earth and High Heaven has had more legs in Canada, this didn't mean much for its author. Graham received a $100 advance on royalties in 1960 when the novel joined the New Canadian Library. Four years later, the author received a further three dollars when it earned out.

Gwethalyn Graham died in 1965, so was spared witness to the ugly New Canadian Library editions credited to "Gwenthalyn Graham".

Two bucks will buy a copy from a Yankee bookseller. That said, he has "McClulland and Stewart" as the publisher, so I can't be sure it's the same.

Never mind. The one you want is the 2003 Cormorant edition:

By far the most attractive edition ever published in this country, it has an Introduction by Norman Ravvin.

Buy it!

With Norman Ravvin, Claire Holden Rothman and the Venerable Linda Borden Taylor
The Writers' Chapel, Montreal, 11 October 2013 
Credit: The image of the NCL "Gwenthalyn Graham" edition was lifted from the very fine Chumley and Pepys on Books blog

Related post:


  1. You're right, that cover DOES have a Charles Addams look about it. I'm unfamiliar with Gwethalyn, and I've never heard that name before in my life.

    1. Must admit I had to concentrate throughout the plaque ceremony so as not to refer to her as "Gwendolyn".