Via carnalthoughts, a whole lot of yes:
Typifying the trend to a tee are the two novels named as finalists for every prize this season, including Britain’s prestigious Man Booker: Half-Blood Blues, by Esi Edugyan, a story of music and race in Nazi Germany; and Patrick deWitt’s The Sisters Brothers, a California-set Western. Joining them to make a majority on the Giller list is The Free World by David Bezmozgis, which is about a family of Soviet émigrés squabbling in Rome on their way to a somewhere else that may or may not be Canada. And having pioneered the new direction with his Booker-winning The English Patient almost 20 years ago, Michael Ondaatje is represented by The Cat’s Table, another novel of transit set on the high seas, a world away from its author’s adopted homeland.
Almost a decade after Yann Martel described Canada as “the greatest hotel on earth” in accepting the Booker Prize for The Life of Pi – a famous Canadian novel that begins in India and ends in Mexico – Canadian content has only become rarer in Canadian literature. While many U.S. and British writers turn inward – a trend exemplified by Julian Barnes’s Booker-winning The Sense of an Ending – Canadian literature is more than ever characterized by free-floating cosmopolitanism.
So says John Barber in The Globe and Mail. Xenophobic click-baiting title aside, there are some interesting points here, mainly on the matter of awarding home-grown or home-set titles. That even the Governor General’s Award’s selection crew didn’t see fit to name at least 3 unambiguously Canadian-set texts certainly suggests the 1970s are over. This is encouraging as someone who hopes to make CanLit syllabi one day and would like to not have “but where is Canada?” come up in response to every text I like after…1980. People still ask it whenever The Collected Works of Billy the Kid is taught, and the usual answer — that not every text has to be taught via nationalism, as indeed, not every text is nationalist — is still unsatisfactory for many people. (And so In the Skin of a Lion, which is good but not as good, gets taught for the sake of being more teachable.)
There are also some things to qualify, though. First, cosmopolitanism is nothing new: A.M. Klein’s protagonists always fancied themselves men-of-the-world, often with a European slant; ditto Leonard Cohen; ditto Mavis Gallant, whose émigré Canadians are almost always Parisians first; ditto Rohinton Mistry, who actually won the GG for a book set entirely in Mumbai.
Second, I’d point out that Bezmosgis’s characters are certainly, not ambiguously, bound for Canada. Ondaatje’s curiously named protagonist Michael also ends up becoming a writer in Canada, rather like another enigmatic Michael who, for anonymity’s sake, we’ll call M. Ondaatje, or Michael O. My point being: if the fixed address at the end of the journey, which is depicted as the start of the immigrant novel’s composition as it is in both these cases (and in Life of Pi if I’m remembering correctly, and occasionally in Rohinton Mistry), is unambiguously Canada, then what about this cosmopolitanism is “free-floating”?
That’s like saying you’re off the grid whenever you use the TTC.