Robertson Davies is all the rage in England this month. The culture editor of the UK daily the Telegraph suggested that Davies may well be Canada’s greatest writer.
Martin Chilton wrote that he’d first read a monstrously long book by Davies on an endless train ride: “His book made the journey pass so pleasantly that I went on to read his two other mammoth trilogies and was charmed and entertained by them all (Deptford, Cornish and Salterton are his big three trios).”
Chilton now wants to return attention to a writer whose name is already in the process of being forgotten: “[A]lthough his books are still in print, and he was honoured in his centenary year by being put on a Canadian stamp, I wonder about the extent to which he has faded from view. “
Davies was also a journalist and academic, and sported one of the more fabulous beards known to man.
“His books were erudite and wise, almost philosophical meditations on the business of living, but they were also witty and whimsical, full of oddball characters. The man who won the Stephen Leacock Medal for Humour said: ‘Comedy is fully as revealing in its probing of human problems as is tragedy. The thing about comedy that I greatly value is that it is infinitely harder to fake than tragedy.’
“His books (30 in all) often deliberately rambled, touching on magic, medicine, Jungian analysis, murder, art forgery and funeral parlours – and anything else that struck his remarkable imagination. My favourite of his books – What’s Bred In The Bone – was shortlisted for the Booker Prize in 1986 and although he attracted some flak … he always had interesting things to say.”
Davies died a decade ago this month, at the age of 82.
You’ll find the book Discoveries: Early Letters 1938-1975 filed in Biography at 921 in the Lennoxville Library. Use our interlibrary loan service to get his fiction.
— December 3, 2015