Many thanks to the editors at The Rusty Toque!
Click the image below to go to the poems:
Click the image below and go to p. 7 (for an enlarged view — so you can actually read the thing — click the white rectangular icon lower right):
I’m excited to announce (with the help of colourized Zend doodles) that Natalie Zend has created The Robert Zend Website. It’s a beautiful tribute to her father and a useful resource for anyone wishing to enjoy and purchase his books and art, and to learn more about his work. Here’s a screenshot of the home page with a link to the site:
Since I started writing about Zend, people have emailed me asking where they can find his work, as many titles are scarce and out-of-print.
The great news is that most of these are now readily available for purchase on The Robert Zend Website, for as long as inventory lasts. The titles include books such as Daymares, Nicolette, and From Zero to One. And of special note to aficionados of typewriter art and concrete poetry, Zend’s portfolio of sixteen “typescapes” entitled Arbormundi (1982), published by bill bissett’s legendary blewointment press, is now available.
The website is already a terrific repository of visual art and audiofiles. In addition, both published and hitherto unpublished materials, including excerpts from Zend’s magnum opus, Oāb, are available on the site by voluntary donation. And Natalie reports that much more will be uploaded over the coming months.
Soon after I began publishing Robert Zend: Poet without Borders, poet Mark Truscott wrote me to express his support of my project, saying that we need to take better care of our literary forebears. The website that Natalie Zend has created does just that, and helps to ensure that her father’s legacy lives on.
Please have a look, enjoy his creative effervescence, consider purchasing one or more titles and offering a donation for the free materials, and leave a comment in the guest registry.
Do you know any Zendophiles-in-waiting? Invite them to check out the website too!
Robert Zend admired Hungarian writer Frigyes Karinthy for his unwillingness “to accept any label, either for himself or for others”:
He didn’t identify with any group; he belonged nowhere, but this non-belonging meant for him an extremely strong belonging to Man, to Mankind, to Humanity.1
Zend similarly disregarded boundaries in seeking out like-minded writers and artists around the world, in shaping themes exploring the connectedness of all humanity and a cosmic sense of place, and in creating art using the most humble and mundane objects.
National culture is a fuzzy proposition, and this is true for the countries where Zend found kindred artists and writers. At a certain point, the idea of nation becomes merely a convenient rubric to demonstrate his cosmopolitanism. For example, within Canadian culture are the cultures of many nations. In turn, the cultures of those nations cannot be thought of as pure but are often congeries of contributions from many peoples across history. As Zend resisted the notion of labels and boundaries, my use of them here might seem to contradict his convictions.
But nations, perhaps especially one such as Hungary, whose language and culture evoke in many Hungarians fierce sentiments of belonging, are of course not totally artificial cultural constructs. And although Canada’s historical quest for a cohesive national culture has been eroded over the decades by the crosscurrent trend toward a national policy of multiculturalism, Canadian cultural protectionism has cast an enduring shadow on any debate on national identity.
Zend had Hungarian cultural roots, and part of his cosmopolitan Budapest heritage was also the thirst to look beyond borders to find literary and artistic kin worldwide. This desire was integral to the freedom that he so valued. In Canada, he had close ties to immigrant as well as Canadian-born artists and writers. Thus his Canadian heritage and legacy are based not so much on national identity as on multicultural affinities.
In the afterword to Oāb, he lists his “spiritual fathers and mothers” as well as “chosen brothers and sisters.” They include poets, artists, sculptors, short story writers, novelists, philosophers, literary theorists, actors, and filmmakers from Argentina, Canada, the United States, France, Austria, Germany, Ancient Greece and Rome, Romania, Flanders, Holland, Ireland, Italy, Russia, Hungary, Great Britain, and Belgium. In short, his tally of creative family is a model of interdisciplinary and cosmopolitan openness.
Zend was a Canadian original: born in Hungary and adopted by Canada, he wrote about both places. He was also a citizen of a broader community of writers and artists and wrote about realms of cosmic dimension. His cosmopolitan outlook is a part of Canadian cultural history. It is a remarkable achievement and an homage to what he most admired in other writers, artists, and cultures without regard to borders.
Thank you for reading my series on the life and work of Robert Zend — I hope you enjoyed it. It has been a great pleasure to work on this project.
One important matter remains: in a few days, I’ll announce the completion of a significant project recently undertaken by Zend’s daughter Natalie Zend: The Robert Zend Website. This valuable resource provides information on acquiring his books and art and offers information to anyone interested in learning more about his remarkable life and work. Stay tuned . . .
Below is a list of heartfelt acknowledgements to the many people who have kindly assisted my research. Particular gratitude goes to Janine Zend, Natalie Zend, and Ibi Gabori, who so generously contributed to this project. Please do not hesitate to let me know if I have overlooked any person or institution.
And for anyone interested in the sources I used during my research, I include a Bibliography at the end of this post.
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 and other librarians 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)
“Administrative history / biographical sketch.” Robert Zend fonds. Media Commons, University of Toronto Libraries, Toronto, Canada. http://mediacommons.library.utoronto.ca/sites/mediacommons.library.utoronto.ca/files/finding-aids/zend.pdf
Bangarth, Stephanie, and Andrew S. Thompson. “Transnational Christian Charity: the Canadian Council of Churches, the World Council of Churches, and the Hungarian Refugee Crisis, 1956–1957.” American Review of Canadian Studies 38, no. 3 (2008): 295–316. General OneFile. Web.
The Book of Canadian Poetry. Edited by A. J. M. Smith. Toronto: Gage, 1943.
Borges, Jorge Luis. Comments on back cover of Daymares: Selected Fiction on Dreams and Time by Robert Zend. Vancouver: CACANADADADA Press, 1991.
———. Labyrinths: Selected Stories and Other Writings. Edited by Donald A. Yates and James E. Irby. New York: New Directions, 1964.
Botar, Oliver, to Janine Zend. Email. 9 April 2001.
Buzinkay, Géza. “The Budapest Joke and Comic Weeklies as Mirrors of Cultural Assimilation.” In Budapest and New York: Studies in Metropolitan Transformation, 1870–1930, edited by Thomas Bender and Carl E. Schorske, 224–247. New York: Russell Sage Foundation, 1994.
Catalogue. Országos Széchényi Könyvtár (National Széchényi Library) in Budapest, Hungary.
Cavell, Richard. McLuhan in Space: A Cultural Geography. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2003.
Clarity, James F., and Eric Pace. “Marcel Marceau, Renowned Mime, Dies at 84.” New York Times. 24 September 2007.
Colombo, John Robert. Ottawa Journal. 11 May 1974. 40.
Day, Lawrence. “Re: Handbook 386(b) – Ken Field.” Chess Talk. 27 August 2008. http://www.chesstalk.info/forum/printthread.php?s=bea6d4e5851d02610f6670258010f473&t=375
———. IMlday. 23 September 2004. http://www.chessgames.com.
Donaghy, Greg. “An Unselfish Interest? Canada and the Hungarian Revolution, 1954-1957.” In The 1956 Hungarian Revolution: Hungarian and Canadian Perspectives, edited by Christopher Adam, Tibor Egervari, Leslie Laczko, and Judy Young, 256—74. Ottawa: University of Ottawa Press, 2010.
Federal Research Division, Library of Congress. “Hungary: The Great Depression.” Library of Congress Country Studies. 1989. http://lcweb2.loc.gov/frd/cs/cshome.html.
Ferrazzi, A. Portrait of Giacomo Leopardi. C. 1820. Oil on canvas. Casa Leopardi, Recanati, Italy.
“Fiftieth Anniversary of the Hungarian uprising and refugee crisis.” United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. 23 October 2006. http://www.unhcr.org/453c7adb2.html.
Fifield, William. “The Mime Speaks: Marcel Marceau.” The Kenyon Review 30, no.2 (1968): 155-65.
Fleeing the Hungarian Revolution, Settling in Canada: Photos and documents of Robert, Ibi and Aniko Zend’s voyage November 1956 – April 1957. 1956 Memorial Oral History Project: Materials accompanying Eve (Ibi) Gabori’s interview, 31 March 2007. Prepared by Natalie Zend, 24 June 2007.
Fosler-Lussier, Danielle. Music Divided: Bartók’s Legacy in Cold War Culture. Los Angeles: University of California Press, 2007.
Frye, Northrop. Afterword to Daymares: Selected Fictions on Dreams and Time, by Robert Zend. Vancouver: Cacanadada Press, 1991.
Gabori, George. When Evils Were Most Free. Deneau, 1981.
Gabori, Ibi. Interview 01544-2. Visual History Archive. USC Shoah Foundation Institute. Accessed online at the University of Toronto Library.
Gould, Glenn. “If I were a gallery curator . . .” Dust jacket of From Zero to One by Robert Zend. Translated by Robert Zend and John Robert Colombo. Mission, BC: The Sono Nis Press, 1973.
Hahn, Lionel / McClatchy Newspapers. Photograph of Marcel Marceau performing in Westwood, California, in 2002. Available from: The Seattle Times. http://seattletimes.com/html/nationworld/2003899052_marceau24.html.
Hamlet. Directed by Lawrence Olivier. London: Two Cities Films, 1948.
Hidas, Peter. “Arrival and Reception: Hungarian Refugees, 1956—1957.” In The 1956 Hungarian Revolution: Hungarian and Canadian Perspectives, edited by Christopher Adam, Tibor Egervari, Leslie Laczko, and Judy Young, 223—55. Ottawa: University of Ottawa Press, 2010.
History of the Literary Cultures of East-Central Europe: Junctures and Disjunctures in the 19th and 20th Centuries, Volume 1. Edited by Marcel Cornis-Pope and John Neubauer. Amsterdam: John Benjamins Publishing, 2004.
Hungarian American Federation. “The 1956 Hungarian Revolution in Photos.“ The 1956 Hungarian Revolution Portal. http://www.americanhungarianfederation.org/1956/photos.htm.
Jones, Frank. “The first time I met Ibi Gabori.” Toronto Star. 29 February 1992. K2. ProQuest. Web.
Józsa, Judit, and Tamás Pelles. La Storia della Scuola Italiana di Budapest alla Luce dei Documenti D’Archivio [The History of the Italan School of Budapest, in Light of Archival Documents]. http://web.t-online.hu/pellestamas/Tamas/bpoliskol.htm#_Toc189916144.
Kafka, Franz. “An Imperial Message.” Translated by Willa and Edwin Muir. The Complete Stories. New York: Schocken Books, 1971. 4–5.
Karinthy, Frigyes. “Chain-Links.” Translated by Adam Makkai, edited by Enikö Jankó. http://djjr-courses.wdfiles.com/local–files/soc180:karinthy-chain-links/Karinthy-Chain-Links_1929.pdf.
———. A Journey Round My Skull. New York: New York Review Books Classics, 2008.
———. Tanár úr kérem [Please Sir!]. Budapest: Dick Manó, 1916.
———. Voyage to Faremido: Gulliver’s Fifth Voyageand Capillaria: Gulliver’s Sixth Voyage. Translated by Paul Tabori. London: New English Library, 1978.
Kearns, Lionel. By the Light of the Silvery McLune: Media Parables, Poems, Signs, Gestures, and Other Assaults on the Interface. Vancouver: Daylight Press, 1969.
Kieval, Hillel J. “Tiszaeszlár Blood Libel.” The Yivo Encyclopedia of Jews in Eastern Europe. 2010. http://www.yivoencyclopedia.org/article.aspx/Tiszaeszlar_Blood_Libel.
Koehler, Robert. “Pantomimist Marcel Marceau in Performance at Segerstrom Hall.” Los Angeles Times, 11 February 1988. http://articles.latimes.com/1988-02-11/entertainment/ca-41839_1_marcel-marceau.
Kossar, Leon. “Canada Heaven for Hungarians.” The Telegram, 30 April 1957.
Kramer, Mark. “The Soviet Union and the 1956 Crises in Hungary and Poland: Reassessments and New Findings.” Journal of Contemporary History 33, no. 2 (April 1998): 163—214.
Lenvai, Paul. One Day That Shook the Communist World: The 1956 Hungarian Uprising and Its Legacy. Translated by Ann Major. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2008.
Leopardi, Giacomo. Canti. New York: Farrar Straus Giroux, 2010.
Lloyd, John. Portrait of Robert Zend. Cover of Beyond Labels. Translated by Robert Zend and John Robert Colombo. Toronto: Hounslow Press, 1982.
Luther, Claudia. “Marcel Marceau, 84; legendary mime was his art’s standard-bearer for seven decades.” Los Angeles Times, 24 September 2007. http://articles.latimes.com/2007/sep/24/local/me-marceau24.
Madách, Imre. The Tragedy of Man. Translated by George Szirtes. New York: Puski Publishing,1988.
———. The Tragedy of Man. Translated and illustrated by Robert Zend.
Magritte, René. Le fils de l’homme. 1964. Magritte Foundation. http://www.magritte.be/portfolio-item/fils-de-l-homme-2/?lang=en.
———. Radio interview with Jean Neyens (1965), in Harry Torczyner, Magritte: Ideas and Images, translated by Richard Millen, 172. New York: Harry N. Abrams, 1977.
———. Les valeurs personelles (Personal Values), Series 2. 1952. Magritte Foundation. http://www.magritte.be/portfolio-item/les-valeurs-personnelles/?lang=en.
The Maple Laugh Forever: An Anthology of Comic Canadian Poetry. Edited by Douglas Barbour and Stephen Scobie. Edmonton, Alberta: Hurtig Publishers, 1981.
Marceau, Marcel. Comments on front inner dust jacket of From Zero to One by Robert Zend. Translated by Robert Zend and John Robert Colombo. Mission, BC: The Sono Nis Press, 1973.
———. Marceau, Marcel. “Marcel Marceau Paintings.” Encyclopedia of Mime. Available at http://www.mime.info/encyclopedia/marceau-paintings.html.
———. The Mask Maker./em> Available at http://www.dailymotion.com/video/x7ffi4_marcel-marceau-le-masque_fun.
———. Portrait of Robert Zend. Drawing (medium unknown). Dust jacket cover of From Zero to One by Robert Zend. Translated by Robert Zend and John Robert Colombo. Mission, BC: The Sono Nis Press, 1973.
———. “This Drawing, Poem, and Zend During and After.” In A Bouquet to Bip by Robert Zend. Exile Magazine 1, no. 3 ( 1973): 121-22.
———. Youth, Maturity, Old Age, and Death. Film stills from 1965 performance. Available on YouTube at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V5RLTZSrr4A.
Marcus, Frank. “Marceau: The Second Phase.” The Transatlantic Review 11 (1962): 12—18.
Marinari, Umberto. Introduction. Pirandello’s Theatre of Living Masks. Translated by Umberto Mariani and Alice Gladstone Mariani. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2011. 3—26.
Martin, Camille. Entry on Lionel Kearns for The Canadian Encyclopedia. 2013. http://www.thecanadianencyclopedia.com/en/article/lionel-kearns/.
Messerli, Douglas. “Frigyes Karinthy.” Green Integer. The PIP (Project for Innovative Poetry) Blog. 30 November 2010. http://pippoetry.blogspot.ca/2010/11/frigyes-karinthy.html.
New Poems of the Seventies. Edited by Douglas Lochhead and Raymond Souster. Ottawa: Oberon Press, 1970.
New York Café, Budapest. Photograph. Available at Famous Coffee Houses. http://www.braunhousehold.com.
Nichol, B. P. The Alphabet Game: A bpNichol Reader. Edited by Darren Wershler-Henry and Lori Emerson. Toronto: Coach House Books, 2007.
———. Art Facts: A Book of Contexts. Tucson: Chax Press, 1990.
———. “Calendar” (detail). Broadside. S.n, n.d.
———. Konfessions of an Elizabethan Fan Dancer. Toronto: Coach House Press, 2004; originally released in Canada in 1974.
———. The Martyrology, Book 6 Books. 1987; reprint. Toronto: Coach House Press, 1994.
———. The Martyrology 5. 1982; facsimile edition. Toronto: Coach House Books, 1994.
———. Meanwhile: The Critical Writings of bpNichol. Edited by Roy Miki. Vancouver: Talon Books, 2002.
———. Merry-Go-Round. Illustrated by Simon Ng. Red Deer, Alberta: Red Deer College Press, 1991.
———. Zygal: A Book of Mysteries and Translations. Toronto: Coach House Books, 1985.
Nietzsche, Friedrich. “The Birth of Tragedy.” Basic Writings of Nietzsche. Translated and edited by Walter Kaufmann. New York: Modern Library, 2000. 1—144.
Nyugat 1938, no. 10. Budapest. Frigyes Karinthy memorial issue.
Pirandello, Luigi. Right You Are, If You Think You Are. In Pirandello’s Theatre of Living Masks. Translated by Umberto Mariani and Alice Gladstone Mariani. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2011. 69—118.
———. Six Characters in Search of an Author and Other Plays. Translated by Mark Musa. New York: Penguin Classics, 1996.
———. Six Characters in Search of an Author. In Pirandello’s Theatre of Living Masks. Translated by Umberto Mariani and Alice Gladstone Mariani. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2011. 119—67.
Priest, Robert, Robert Sward, and Robert Zend. The Three Roberts: On Childhood. St. Catherines, Ontario: Moonstone Press, 1985.
———. The Three Roberts: On Love. Toronto: Dreadnaught, 1984.
———. The Three Roberts: Premiere Performance. Scarborough, Ontario: HMS Press, 1984.
Q Art Theatre. The Tragedy of Man publicity poster. Montreal: Q Art Theatre, October – November 2000.
R., Patrick. Robert Zend. “Memorial.” http://www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi?page=gr&GRid=10862727.
Rippl-Rónai, József. Portrait of Frigyes Karinthy. 1925. Pastel. Petőfi Museum of Literature. Available from Terminartors. http://www.terminartors.com/artworkprofile/Rippl-Ronai_Jozsef-Portrait_of_Frigyes_Karinthy.
Robert Zend bio. Ronsdale Press. Available at http://ronsdalepress.com/authors/robert-zend/.
Robert Zend fonds. Media Commons, University of Toronto Libraries, Toronto, Canada.
Sanders, Ivan. “Karinthy, Ferenc.” The Yivo Encyclopedia of Jews in Eastern Europe. 2010. http://www.yivoencyclopedia.org/article.aspx/Karinthy_Ferenc
Six Degrees of Separation. 1993. DVD Culver City, Canada: MGM Home Entertainment, 2000.
Sled, Dmitri. “Partisans In The Arts: Marcel Marceau (1923—2007).” Jewish Partisan Educational Foundation. 12 June 2012. http://jewishpartisans.blogspot.ca/2012/06/partisans-in-arts-marcel-marceau-1923.html.
Standelsky, Eva, and Zoltan Volgyesl. Tainted Revolution. Dir. Martin Mevius. The Netherlands: Association for the Study of Nationalities, 2006.
Stark, Tamás. “‘Malenki Robot’ – Hungarian Forced Labourers in the Soviet Union (1944–1955).” Minorities Research: A Collection of Studies by Hungarian Authors. Edited by Győző Cholnoky. Budapest: Lucidus K., 1999. 155-167. http://www.epa.hu/00400/00463/00007/pdf/155_stark.pdf
Sterne, Laurence. Tristram Shandy. Edited by Howard Anderson. New York: W. W. Norton, 1980.
Szabó, László Cs. Qtd. in “Frigyes Karinthy Author’s Page.” Publishing Hungary. Petőfi Irodalmi Múzeum. http://www.hunlit.hu/karinthyfrigyes,en.
Szaynok, Bożena. “Stalinization of Eastern Europe.” Translated by John Kulczycki. Antisemitism: A Historical Encyclopedia of Prejudice and Persecution, Volume 1. Edited by Richard S. Levy. Santa Barbara, California: ABC-CLIO, 2005. 677—80.
Talpalatnyi föld [Treasured Earth]. Directed by Frigyes Bán. Hungary: Magyar Filmgyártó Nemzeti Vállalat, 1948.
The Toronto Mirror. Published and edited by Robert Zend. October 1961.
Troper, Harold. “Canada and the Hungarian Refugees: The Historical Context.” In The 1956 Hungarian Revolution: Hungarian and Canadian Perspectives, edited by Christopher Adam, Tibor Egervari, Leslie Laczko, and Judy Young, 176—93. Ottawa: University of Ottawa Press, 2010.
Ungváry, Krisztián. The Siege of Budapest: One Hundred Days in World War II. Translated by Ladislaus Löb. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2006.
United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, Washington, DC. “Hungary after the German Occupation.” Holocaust Encyclopedia. Last modified 10 June 2013. http://www.ushmm.org/wlc/en/article.php?ModuleId=10005458.
Veidlinger, Jeffrey. “Stalin, Joseph (1879—1953).” Antisemitism: A Historical Encyclopedia of Prejudice and Persecution, Volume 1. Edited by Richard S. Levy. Santa Barbara, California: ABC-CLIO, 2005. 676—77.
Volvox: Poetry from the Unofficial Languages of Canada . . . in English Translation. Edited by J. Michael Yates. The Queen Charlotte Islands, British Columbia: The Sono Nis Press, 1971.
Wershler, Darren. “News That Stays News: Marshall McLuhan and Media Poetics.” The Journal of Electronic Publishing 14 no. 2 (2011). http://dx.doi.org/10.3998/3336451.0014.208.
White, Norman T. “The Hearsay Project.” The NorMill. 11—12 November 1985. http://www.normill.ca/Text/Hearsay.txt.
Zend, Natalie. A Biography of Robert Zend. Unpublished manuscript. 8 March 1983. Personal library of Janine Zend.
Zend, Robert. Ararat. N.d. Paper collage. Private collection.
———. Arbormundi: 16 Selected Typescapes. Vancouver: Blewointment Press, 1982.
———. Beyond Labels. Translated by Robert Zend and John Robert Colombo. Toronto: Hounslow Press, 1982.
———. A Bouquet to Bip. Exile Magazine 1, no. 3 ( 1973): 93–123.
———. Dancers. N.d. Paper collage. Private collection.
———. Daymares: Selected Fictions on Dreams and Time. Edited by Brian Wyatt. Vancouver: CACANADADADA Press, 1991.
———. Eden. N.d. Paper collage. Private collection.
———. Fából vaskarikatúrák. Budapest: Magyar Világ Kiadó, 1993.
———. Film poster produced for Hamlet, directed by Lawrence Olivier (London: Two Cities Films, 1948). Press and Publicity Department of the Hungarian National Filmmaking Company, 1948.
———. Film poster produced for Talpalatnyi föld (Treasured Earth), directed by Frigyes Bán (Hungary: Magyar Filmgyártó Nemzeti Vállalat, 1948). Press and Publicity Department of the Hungarian National Filmmaking Company, 1948.
———. From Zero to One. Translated by Robert Zend and John Robert Colombo. Mission, BC: The Sono Nis Press, 1973.
———. Genesis. N.d. Paper collage. Private collection.
———. Hazám törve kettővel. Montréal: Omnibooks, 1991.
———. Heavenly Cocktail Party. N.d. Paper collage. Private collection.
———. How Do Yoo Doodle?. Unpublished manuscript. Private collection of Janine Zend. Coloration is the author’s.
———. “The Key.” Exile Magazine 2, no. 2 (1974): 57-67.
———. LineLife. Ink drawing on paper. 1983. Box 10, Robert Zend fonds, Media Commons, University of Toronto Libraries. Adapted for digital medium by Camille Martin.
———. “Months of the Super-Year.” Exile Magazine 2, no. 2 (1974): 50.
———. Nicolette: A Novel Novel. Vancouver: Ronsdale Press, 1993.
———. Oāb. Volume 1. Toronto: Exile Editions, 1983.
———. Oāb. Volume 2. Toronto: Exile Editions, 1985.
———. Pirandello and the Number Two. Master’s thesis. University of Toronto, 1969.
———. Polinear No. 3. 1982. Ink on paper. Private collection.
———. Quadriptych in Gasquette series. N.d. Paper collage. Private collection.
———. Science Fiction. N.d. Paper collage. Private collection.
———. Toiletters. N.d. Ink on toilet paper rolls. Private collection.
———. “Type Scapes: A Mystery Story.” Exile Magazine 5 nos. 3-4 (1978): 147.
———. Versek, Képversek. Párizs: Magyar mühely, 1988.
———. Windmill. N.d. Mixed media with thumbtacks, sewing pins, string, and paper on wood. Private collection.
———. “The World’s Greatest Poet.” Exile Magazine 2, no. 2 (1974): 55-56.
———. Zendocha-land. Unpublished manuscript, 1979.
Zend, Robert, ed. Vidám úttörő nyár (Happy Summer Pioneers). Magyar Úttörők Szövetsége (Association of Hungarian Pioneers), 1955.
Zend, Robert, translator and illustrator. The Tragedy of Man by Imre Madách. Unpublished manuscript.
Zend, Robert, and Jerónimo. My friend, Jerónimo. Toronto: Omnibooks, 1981.
“Zend, Robert.” Encyclopedia of Literature in Canada. Edited by W. H. New. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2002. 1234.
Robert Zend dissolved boundaries, or perhaps more accurately, ignored them. The preceding eight installments demonstrated two ways in which he did so: his international outlook and his exploration of humanity’s place within the cosmos.
In this last substantive installment, I’d like to show a third way. To create his visual art, Zend used technologies that were available to him, including the typewriter and computer. He also used whatever materials were at hand, including automotive gaskets, thumbtacks, and toilet paper rolls. Zend was also a prolific doodler, drawing his casual sketches (some quite intricate) on everything from Post-It notes to cocktail napkins.
I hope that you enjoy this visual feast of works by an extraordinary Canadian writer and artist. I think it’s fair to say that many of these have not been seen publicly for a very long time, possibly not since his death almost thirty years ago. The time is overdue for these visual works to reach a broader audience.
The display of works here is made possible by the kind permission of Janine Zend, who generously allowed me to view, photograph, and (in the case of the toiletters) video them.
The first time I was invited to the Zend home, in October 2013, Janine led me to the dining room table, where there was a box full of cardboard toilet paper rolls on which Robert Zend had drawn poems and designs. In his usual punning humour, he called these found objects “toiletters.” He created scores of these, also drawing on tape rolls, paper towel rolls, and mailing tubes. If it was cardboard and tubular, he drew on it. I knew that he was aesthetically versatile, but these took the notion to a new level. I immediately loved them.
After the arrival that afternoon of Janine and Robert’s daughter, Natalie, the two showed me upstairs, where they searched around for more such objets trouvés. In a closet they found a long mailing tube on which Zend had written a poem spiraling from bottom to top.
Spontaneously, Natalie began reading the poem while she and I slowly rotated the tube. It was a poignant moment, and I was mesmerized. I can only describe the poem as a spiritual crescendo, and as Natalie reached the top of the tube, it seemed all but inevitable that the poem would end on the word “god” or some such epiphany. Suddenly her voice halted, for the cardboard where the last word should have been had been roughly torn off. It looked as though the word had been gnawed off by a rodent. Then it hit me that the tear wasn’t caused by a mouse; it was classic Zend humour, building up anticipation and then thwarting it, in this case with silence at the height of an expected revelation.
His choice of found object, the humble cardboard tube, rings true in the context of his writing and other visual works. The toiletters bespeak an absurdist (and scatalogical) sense of humour and a love of doodling. And he was drawn to the circularity of the tubes as he was drawn to themes involving cyclical processes of creation and destruction as well as images of the uroboros. On reflection, the ultimate household throwaway seems a natural canvas for Zend.
I selected a few toiletters to give an idea of their variety and filmed them on a turntable (Fig. 1).
In a series of collages, Zend traced shapes with automotive gaskets, or “gasquettes” as he dubbed them in tongue-in-cheek eloquent French. More mundanely, he describes the objects as “automatic transmission valve-body separator gaskets . . . courtesy of Gabriel Nagy of Low Cost Automatic Transmissions, Ltd., Toronto.”1 Using these little machine parts as templates, he created highly stylized works such as the following two works in the Gasquette series (figs. 2 and 3):
Zend found inspiration in quotidian objects like thumbtacks, pushpins, and string to create multi-media works such as Windmill (fig. 4), which manages to be simultaneously playful and haunting:
The three paper collages below (figs. 5, 6, and 7) show a range of Zend’s stylistic approaches in this medium. The lively motion and rhythm in these works have a musical effect, perhaps owing something to his background as a pianist:
Scattered throughout this essay you’ve seen examples of Zend’s remarkable “typescapes,” such as “Stormelancholix” from Arbormundi (fig. 8):
In this installment I’d also like to present examples of different approaches he took to typewriter art. Oāb is full of playful experimentation with typed characters to illustrate the two-dimensional characters Oāb and Ïrdu exploring the possibilities of their world of paper and ink, as in “ÏRDU IMITATES THE SNAKE, OĀB THE PREY” (fig. 9):
and the following representation of the four creature-creators of Zend’s generational fantasy:
Zend was fortunate to live at a time when computer programs were being developed that allowed artists to take advantage of the possibilities of digital technology. Using such software, he created delicate works of parallel lines and concentric patterns, as in Polinear No. 3 (fig. 11):
An overview of Zend’s visual works would not be complete without a gallery of his doodles. I knew that Zend was a compulsive and prolific doodler, but it was not until I began researching his fonds that I began to understand the sheer number and scope of these off-the-cuff scribblings. His restless creative energy spilled over onto any paper product in sight, be it party napkin, doctor’s tablet, Post-It note, manila folder, or toilet paper roll — all were an invitation to play. If he ran out of paper, he would doodle on the back of a drawing he just made. Thirty-five years later, I was finding these little drawings scattered throughout the scores of boxes in the Zend fonds. Who says research has to be dull?
The doodles are by turns humorous, beautiful, erotic, abstract, and punning, and often a hybrid such as comic-erotic. He took especial delight in caricatures and intricate monograms. Sometimes his sketches turned into ideas for typescapes or other works, and sometimes they seem to be outlines for longer visual sequences. In the punning category, he created a collection of visual/verbal puns entitled How Do Yoo Doodle?, which he produced as coloured slides.
Zend was a paper hoarder – the wastebasket was his enemy. Janine points out that this may have been a reaction to having lost everything, including all of his poetry, during his escape from Hungary in 1956. How fortunate that after that loss he saved every scrap, and that after his death Janine took great care in archiving all of his papers, from the gorgeous and labour-intensive typescapes to the humblest scratchings on an envelope.
The following gallery contains a sampling that I gleaned from the Zend fonds as well as a selection from How Do Yoo Doodle?
Behold Zend’s doodles, like sparks flying from a creative mind that never seemed to rest.
You can hover your cursor over the image for pause, reverse, and forward buttons.