Mandel, Eli

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MANDEL, ELI (1922–1990), Canadian author. Mandel is among the most challenging writer-critics to gain prominence as part of the explosion of Canadian literary activity in the 1960s. Born in Estevan, Saskatchewan, he served in the Canadian armed forces during World War ii. His first book, Trio, appeared in 1954, just after he completed his Ph.D. in literature at the University of Toronto. This division of labor, between working poet and active scholar and teacher, was a pattern he maintained throughout his career. In the middle 1950s Mandel taught at the College militaire royal de Saint-Jean; from 1957 until 1967 he was at the University of Alberta. He spent the remainder of his career at York University.

Mandel's published work, which reflects his varied interests and talents, includes poetry collections, volumes of personal and critical essays, as well as a number of important poetry and critical anthologies that both reflected their times and influenced the course of Canadian literary studies. The bulk of Mandel's anthologizing work took place in the early 1970s, when the Canadian literary scene was undergoing impressive growth and change, alongside the rise of a new cultural nationalism. In his published criticism, Mandel addressed a wide area of Canadian intellectual trends, from the influence of Northrop Frye to the linguistic and political implications of postmodernism. He also contributed to discussions relatedto regionalism and the role of ethnic writing.

Jewish themes appear intermittently in Mandel's work, but they are not central as they are in the writings of Leonard *Cohen, Irving *Layton, and A.M. *Klein. Most interesting are a 1984 essay entitled "Auschwitz and Poetry," in which Mandel explores his own efforts to address the Holocaust in his art, as well as a remarkable text called Out of Place (1977), which explores Mandel's family history in the Jewish prairie farming colony of Hirsch in southern Saskatchewan. In Out of Place Mandel juxtaposes the particularity of Jewish prairie life with questions of Canadian history, memory, and landscape, making use of a poetic method that is spare and lightly ironic. The outcome, like much of Mandel's work, is a surprisingly original view of Canadian cultural life.

Mandel's awards include the Governor General's Award in 1967 for his collection An Idiot Joy.


E. Mandel. The Other Harmony: The Collected Poetry of Eli Mandel, eds. A. Stubbs and J. Chapman (2000); N. Ravvin, "Eli Mandel's Family Architecture: Building a House of Words on the Prairies," in: R. Menkis and N. Ravvin (eds.), The Canadian Jewish Studies Reader (2004): 266–82; A. Stubbs, Myth, Origins, Magic: A Study of Form in Eli Mandel's Writing (1993).

[Norman Ravvin (2nd ed.)]