What makes a Canadian author?
Is it place of birth? Place of current residence? The fact that so-and-so had dinner at a truck stop on the Canada-U.S. border once in 1963?
The National Post‘s Afterword blog is pointing out that all those people (including yr. humble correspondent) who assumed that there were no Canadians on this year’s Man Booker longlist were wrong. One of the 13 nominees, Ed O’Loughlin, author of Not Untrue & Not Unkind, “was born in Toronto and spent his early years in Edmonton.” In the Afterword’s interview with O’Loughlin, the author says that his family left Toronto when he “was only a few weeks or months old,” moving to Alberta, where they decamped when he was around six years old (O’Loughlin himself appears fuzzy on the exact date). They moved to Manchester, then to Ireland. O’Loughlin now lives in Dublin. But, for the purposes of national pride where important literary prizes are concerned, he’s as Canadian as poutine.
But, hang on a titch: we’re also pleased to call Rawi Hage a Canadian because he currently resides in Montreal. But, Hage was born in Lebanon. So, by the Afterword’s rationale, if O’Loughlin is Canadian, then Hage is Lebanese. Mavis Gallant is Canadian because she was born here, even though she’s lived in Paris for the last 50 years. Saul Bellow was born in Lachine, Quebec, so I guess he’s Canadian, as is Brian Moore, whom many people would consider Irish, but is published by the New Canadian Library because he lived in Canada when he wrote novels like The Luck of Ginger Coffey and Black Robe. Ernest Hemingway wrote for the Toronto Star, so why not call him Canadian too? And while we’re at it, why not adopt Martin Amis, who is currently teaching at the Humber School for Writers?
What makes an author Canadian? Is it a simple matter of where they were born? Or must they have resided in the country for a significant period of time before we are allowed to claim them as one of our own? (Malcolm Lowry, who was born in England, spent several years in British Columbia, but it still seems a bit of a stretch to call him a Canadian author.) Does it require citizenship, or a passport? Or, as I’m more apt to suspect, does one’s Canadianness come and go depending upon the exigencies of international literary prize nominations?