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Henry Kreisel Biography

(1922–91), The Rich Man, The Betrayal, The Almost Meeting

Canadian novelist, born in Vienna, where he spent his first sixteen years, before fleeing to England to escape the Nazi occupation. Interned as an ‘enemy alien’ at the beginning of the Second World War, he was sent to Canada in 1940 and remained interned there for a further eighteen months. He subsequently studied at the Universities of Toronto and London and became a Professor of English at the University of Alberta in Edmonton. His fiction is less concerned with the predicament of New World immigrants than with alienation more generally. The Rich Man (1948) tells the story of a Jewish-Canadian immigrant who returns to his native Austria in the 1930s, pretending to be rich, but forced to acknowledge his dissimulation when his family is struck by tragedy and he is unable to assist them. The Betrayal (1964) is a moral fable centred on an encounter in Edmonton between a young Jew who has narrowly escaped Nazi persecution and his former betrayer. It contrasts the New World innocence of Western Canadian life with the horrific recent history of middle Europe and poses complex ethical questions about responsibility, conscience, and revenge. Kreisel has also published a collection of short stories, The Almost Meeting (1981).

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Literature Reference: American Literature, English Literature, Classics & Modern FictionEncyclopedia of Literature: Knole Kent to Mary Lavin Biography