hating canada


Robertson Davies — a man with a considerable talent for creative insult — reserved one of his best for the writer, painter, and critic Wyndham Lewis. In a dismissal so sublime as to test the limits of intelligibility, he said that Self Condemned, Lewis’s recently reissued novel about Canada, read “as though it had been written in lemon juice, with a rusty nail, on a piece of tin.” If his point was that Lewis was bitter, the evidence is certainly on his side. Hester Harding, the heroine of Self Condemned, is probably the only character in literature to kill herself out of sheer hatred for Canada. In the suicide note she leaves her husband, a disillusioned English historian, she says, “I loathe this country so much, where I can see you burying yourself. I cannot leave you physically — go away from you back to England. I can only go out of the world.” She is not alone in finding life in Canada loathsome. Professor Harding calls it “an outlandish culture-less world” — a “tenth-rate alternative to what had been his backgrounds.” The novel focuses its vitriol on Momaco, Lewis’s code name for World War II Toronto. “Momaco was so ugly, and so devoid of all character as of any trace of charm,” he writes, “that it was disagreeable to walk about in. It was as if the elegance and charm of Montreal had been attributed to the seductions of the Fiend by the puritan founders of Momaco.”

more from Adam Hammond at Walrus here.