Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Layton’s Last Interview, Westendchronicle.com, photo & article, Mar 7 06

Irving Layton’s last interview
That’s what documentary makers claim to have in 90-minute video
By MARTIN C. BARRY
http://www.westendchronicle.com

The Chronicle

Three months after the death of Irving Layton in January, two Montreal filmmakers are resurrecting memories of the world-renowned Canadian poet with a lengthy videotaped interview they claim was probably the last he gave.

“To my knowledge it was the last substantial one,” says Montreal journalist Stan Asher, who interviewed the former NDG resident at Layton’s Monkland Avenue home in
Besides holding Christianity as a whole responsible for the Holocaust, Layton also lays blame on the Polish nation. “Certainly the Germans felt that it was very easy to establish death camps in Poland because of the prevalent almost universal anti-semitism that the Poles had exhibited for so many years,” he says. “That’s why the Germans chose Poland.”

He is asked for his impressions of Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson, spiritual leader of the Chabad Lubavitch movement who died the year before. Many Lubavitchers revered Schneerson as the Jewish Messiah. “I think I am a better Messiah than he is,” Layton replies.

As a young man, Layton acquired a reputation as a firebrand in socialist politics. Asked during the interview whether he was aware that communist MP Fred Rose hid in the Laurentian town of St. Hippolyte to avoid being arrested, he replies with typically dry wit, “No, I was not that close to the central committee of the communist party.”

On his involvement in socialism in the 1930s and 1940s, he says, “I was never a communist. I refused all the blandishments of communists. I was never a YCLer (Young Communist League). I was much too independent-minded and I hated dogmatism.”

On his impressions of French Canadians, Layton says, “I like their joie de vivre.

I find them eminently likeable, eminently likeable. And I still do. For one thing
they’re not wasps ... (They) mitigated for me the waspness. For that I’m immensely grateful.”