Category Archives: library

Robert Zend (1929-1985): Poet without Borders – Preface with Portraits


Preface with Portraits

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All images of work by Robert Zend are copyright © Janine Zend, all rights reserved, reproduced with permission from Janine Zend. Family photographs are reproduced with permission from Janine Zend, Natalie Zend, and Ibi Gabori.

     Welcome to Robert Zend: Poet without Borders, my illustrated exploration of the life and work of the Hungarian-Canadian avant-garde writer and artist. The slide show above consists of photographs from Zend’s family and creative life as well as artistic portraits and self-portraits.
      This project is the result of several months of research, interviews, and writing. It has become very dear to me, and I hope that you will enjoy the results. Over the next few weeks, I’m going to post installments, including biographical sections about Zend’s life in Hungary and Canada, and sections about his Hungarian literary roots, Canadian cross-pollination, and international affinities and influences.
      I’ve had the pleasure and honour of speaking with members of the Zend family (Janine Zend, Natalie Zend, and Ibi Gabori) and of viewing texts, artworks, and other artifacts and memorabilia in the private collection of Janine Zend, for which I offer my deepest gratitude. I’ve also had the opportunity to research the extensive Zend fonds at the University of Toronto Library’s Media Commons. I’d like to thank curators Rachel Beattie and Brock Silversides, who had to put up with many a yelp of joy as I found such priceless artifacts as a photograph of Zend playing chess with the great French mime artist Marcel Marceau — on a chess set of Zend’s own design. These conversations and experiences have greatly enriched my understanding of the life, mind, and work of Robert Zend, for which I am very grateful.
     As I worked on this project, I became acutely aware of my limitation of not knowing the Hungarian language. There are works by Zend in Hungarian that are as yet untranslated into English, and many documents in the Zend fonds that are written only in Hungarian. Nonetheless, I am fortunate that so much was either written by Zend in English or translated into English by him, often with the assistance of John Robert Colombo and others. I sincerely apologize in advance for any errors or omissions in what follows, and encourage correspondence from anyone with greater knowledge on the subject than I. If what I have written stimulates interest in Zend’s life and work, then I will consider my primary goal to have been accomplished.
     The next installment, which will appear on this blog in a few days, will feature the premiere of Linelife, a previously unpublished visual work by Zend to be presented in digitalized form as a short animated film.

If you’d like to receive notification of these installments on Robert Zend, please use the email subscription feature to the upper right. And please kindly spread the word to anyone who might be interested. Your comments and feedback are most welcome.


Next Installment: Part 1.
Linelife: Premiere
of a Rediscovered Treasure



I am grateful for the kind assistance and generosity of the following:

The family of Robert Zend: Janine Zend, Natalie Zend, and Ibi Gabori

Rachel Beattie and Brock Silverside, curators of the Zend fonds at Media Commons, University of Toronto Library

Edric Mesmer, Librarian at the University at Buffalo’s Poetry Collection and Curator of The Center for Marginalia, and the other wonderful librarians of The Poetry Collection for their research assistance

Brent Cehan of the Language and Literature division of the Toronto Reference Library

The Librarians in the Special Arts Room Stacks at the Toronto Reference Library

The Librarians at Reference and Research Services and at the Petro Jacyk Central and East European Resource Centre, Robarts Library, University of Toronto Libraries

Susanne Marshall (former Literary Editor for The Canadian Encyclopedia)

Irving Brown

Robert Sward

bill bissett

Jiří Novák

Camille Martin

My Vancouver: Book Heaven

          Borges envisioned paradise as a library, and during my recent brief visit to Vancouver, I spent many happy hours in two very different nirvanas for bibliophiles: the Central branch of the Vancouver Public Library and MacLeod’s Books.
          For me, one of the great strengths of the Central Library is the wonderful collection of Canadian and American poetry. The other is the magnificent architecture, whose curved outer shell features study tables offering views on two sides: the library’s interior and the shiny, wet streets of Vancouver with their endless parades of colourful umbrellas . . .


. . . or, if you prefer, the enclosed concourse of shops at the library’s entrance:


By contrast to the Central library’s showy architecture and bright interior that opens itself to the world is a more introverted kind of book heaven: MacLeod’s Books.


The interior is a glorious jumble of overflowing boxes, precarious piles of books, and shelves that are more often than not double-stacked. The poetry is in the basement, womb-like with its narrow and claustrophobic, over-stuffed aisles:


          Fortunately, I’m not claustrophobic, and part of the pleasure of MacLeod’s is the treasure hunt, the possibility that at the bottom of a pile or behind that first layer of shelved books is the prize that will take a place of honour among the equally messy heaps of poetry next to my bed.
          The photograph below was taken by a young woman with whom I’d struck up a conversation. She was looking for a book of poems by Anna Akhmatova. By chance, I turned to the shelf behind me and there it was: a beautiful, hard-cover copy of the complete poems of Akhmatova. She looked so happy when I handed it to her, and in return, she took a photograph of me in paradise.


Camille Martin