Eva Stachniak's deeply moving novel, Necessary Lies, published by Dundurn Press, is like nearly all well-written novels, layered with many themes, all worthy of comment or discussion, all important. Every reader will, of course, find his or her own meaning in this tale of a Polish academic, who leaves Poland just before the birth of the Solidarity movement and the political upheavals in the 1980s for a teaching stint at Montreal's McGill University. Anna Nowicka, Stachniak's marvelously rendered protagonist, falls in love both with Canada and a fellow academic, despite being already married and despite her sense that she is betraying all those in Poland who choose to stay and struggle for political change. She opts to stay in Canada because she simply cannot bring herself to return to the darkness that is her homeland. What Eva Stachniak's novel conveys so effectively is that while people can occupy the same segment in time, their lives, sadly, can be markedly different. Canada, is a point of convergence for people from all over the world because here lives are built. But Stachniak also aims to show what happens to those who are left behind, those who don't make it to Canada. The story of love and betrayal in Necessary Lies, is, consequently, only a small part of much larger canvas, a canvas which depicts lives destroyed or gone to waste either through war or through the hardship of everyday survival in a harsh and dreary social and political climate. For many here, this is the flip side of becoming Canadian¨the leaving behind of friends and relatives in lands not bright or as full of promise as ours. Necessary Lies serves to remind where we are by reminding where many of us have come from.
It gives me great pleasure to congratulate Eva Stachniak on behalf of everyone at Books in Canada. Our congratulations go also to the other four nominees. And finally, we wish to thank W. P. Kinsella for preparing the shortlist, and Julie Keith, Joel Yanofsky, and Carmine Starnino for their work as this year's judges.
On another note, I would like to draw the reader's attention to two wonderful essays appearing in this issue: The first, written by Christopher Ondaatje, is on Hemingway and his African books, specifically, The Garden of Eden. Here Ondaatje explores an entirely different side of Hemingway's writing on sexuality¨one bound up with Hemingway's African experience.
The second essay is by Kenneth Sherman entitled "Five Pieces for Irving Layton", in which Sherman recalls his early association with Layton and his growing appreciation for him as a poet, thinker and humanitarian.
Finally, we welcome Michael Taube as a regular columnist. Enjoy the issue.