"I thought I was going to write a novel about the burning of the Parliament buildings in Montreal in 1849, a famous event in the city’s history. I ended up writing a work of creative nonfiction about a totally unknown page in the city’s past. From that small, private event, however, I was able to fan out in a number of directions that allowed me to peer through a metaphorical window and survey 19th century laws and mores. It enabled me to learn—and to pass on to my readers what I learned—a great deal about Victorian medicine, photography, and behind-the-scenes gossip. Was I able to solve all the riddles? No I was not. But history is mystery. And the whole truth of even a true story remains shadowed."
--Elaine Kalman Naves
|Afternoon Book Review Series|
Apr 14th - 2:00pm
Book: “The Innocents” by Francesca Segal
Admission: $12 members / $7 students
Jewish Public Library,
Welcome to the website of Montreal writer, journalist, editor, and lecturer Elaine Kalman Naves. Elaine was born in Hungary, and grew up in Budapest, London, and Montreal. For many years she was literary columnist for the Montreal Gazette, and is the author of seven books. Among them are the award-winning memoirs Journey to Vaja: Reconstructing the World of a Hungarian-Jewish Family and Shoshanna's Story: A Mother, A Daughter, and the Shadows of History. Elaine's other books include: The Writers of Montreal; Putting Down Roots: Montreal's Immigrant Writers; Storied Streets: Montreal in the Literary Imagination (co-written with Bryan Demchinsky); and Robert Weaver: Godfather of Canadian Literature. Elaine is a frequent contributor to CBC Radio's Ideas, where her most recent project was about the great 19th-century Montreal photographer, William Notman. Elaine's honours include a Canadian Literary Award for Personal Essay, two Quebec Writers' Federation prizes for non-fiction, and two Jewish Book Awards for Holocaust Literature. Her new book, Portrait of a Scandal: The Abortion Trial of Robert Notman, is published by Véhicule Press.
"This history has it all: desire and illicit sex, privilege and penury, fame and infamy, the dramatic momentum of an absorbing novel. ...
"Kalman Naves have a novelist's eye and a historian's sleuth-like instincts, with the tenacity of both."
– Ami Sands Brodoff
"Portrait of a Scandal has the air, build-up and tension of a courtroom procedural as historian Elaine Kalman Naves skillfully leads us through the abortion trial of Robert Notman, brother and trusted associate of the great photographer, William Notman. At a time when desperate North American women turned to abortion to end unwanted pregnancies, the judge made Robert’s trial a showcase for his personal vendetta against “this germ of destruction, this moral epidemic” rotting society. In Kalman Naves’ capable hands, Notman’s story is a spellbinding glimpse into the intimate lives of privileged Montrealers, illustrated by stunning photographs of all the principal characters, including Notman’s flamboyant defence lawyer and his nemesis, the plodding but determined prosecutor, and even the doctor who committed suicide [over the case].”
– Elizabeth Abbott