Morley Edward Callaghan, novelist, short-story writer, broadcaster (b at Toronto 22 Feb 1903; d there 25 Aug 1990). Educated at University of Toronto and Osgoode Hall Law School, Callaghan published his first stories in Paris in This Quarter (1926) and transition (1927).
Morley Edward Callaghan, novelist, short-story writer, broadcaster (b at Toronto 22 Feb 1903; d there 25 Aug 1990). Educated at University of Toronto and Osgoode Hall Law School, Callaghan published his first stories in Paris in This Quarter (1926) and transition (1927). His first novel, Strange Fugitive, was published in 1928. Ezra Pound bought 2 stories for an issue of Exile, and by 1929 Callaghan was publishing in Atlantic Monthly, Harper's Bazaar, Scribner's and The New Yorker, while also working as a journalist in Toronto and Montréal.
The next 2 novels - It's Never Over (1930) and A Broken Journey (1932) - concern Callaghan's perception of 2 apparently irreconcilable worlds, the self-seeking empirical jungle and the spiritual realm of trust and faith. In Such is my Beloved (1934) the problem is faced directly. The hero, Father Dowling, befriends 2 prostitutes, but is reviled by the world, including his bishop. They Shall Inherit the Earth (1935) advances another small step: the hero and heroine reconcile physical and spiritual love. In another fine novel, More Joy in Heaven (1937), a reformed bank robber is welcomed by the community as a prodigal son, but pays with his life when he tries to prevent a bank robbery. From 1937 to 1950 Callaghan was silent, except for Luke Baldwin's Vow (1948), a children's story, and The Varsity Story (1948), about University of Toronto. Then, in 1951, came The Loved and the Lost, perhaps Callaghan's masterpiece. Set in Montréal, it is a moving reprise of his temporal and eternal theme. From this intricately plotted and multilayered novel, Callaghan proceeded to Morley Callaghan's Stories (1959) and The Many Coloured Coat (1960), another novel set in Montréal, with echoes of the ancient story of Joseph and his brethren; and A Passion in Rome (1961), in which secular lovers find their physical-spiritual solution on the occasion of the election and installation of a new pope. In these novels, Callaghan maintains his concern with the meaning of spirit in the temporal world.
If Callaghan published relatively little in the 1950s, he was not idle. In broadcasting he emerged as a "public" personality. In 1960 American critic Edmund Wilson identified him as "unjustly neglected" and compared him to Chekhov and Turgenev. This pronouncement undoubtedly led to many reprints of Callaghan's works, though he had already been published in France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Sweden and China, where his concern for "the little man" attracted popular taste. That Summer in Paris (1963), his reminiscences of 1929, is one of the finest memoirs in Canadian literature. In 1975 Callaghan published A Fine and Private Place, a novel in which a writer is both the hero and victim of a new generation. Then, in A Time for Judas (1983), Callaghan turned to the ultimate question of sanctity and human weakness. Judas is perhaps his ultimate image of the temporal-spiritual conflict. Judas, he believed, experienced a "terrible sense of isolation.""Death," said Callaghan, is mysterious, but "you can make out of life whatever you want to make. This is your truth."
Recipient of numerous awards and prizes, Callaghan received the 1951 Governor General's Award for The Loved and the Lost. Possibly because of his speculations about time and eternity, Canadians have not always been friendly to Callaghan, but in the larger world of literature he remains a classic. Besides many honours and citations, he received the Royal Bank Award and was a Companion of the Order of Canada.