I am much more inclined to like Irving Layton, the man, and even defend him against the various accusations of chauvinism he is subjected to after reading this selection of his social and political writings…Layton comes out well in this collection. Always stimulating, though not always right as he often says himself, he is one of Canada’s finest products”
– Ottawa Review
It is unique among Canadian poets that the man now acclaimed as the foremost poets in Canada should have written so continuously and extensively on politics, education, society, world affairs, travels, current issues, film and literary criticism. It is also rare for a poet to have maintained such a keen interest in and an unwavering eye upon human affairs in general and to have addressed these matters so extensively in prose. The poetic works of Irving Layton represents the distillation, in a poetic form of his vision of life, love, humanity. The prose work in this volume represents Irving Layton’s confrontation with and his taking sides on the questions and issues which pass before all of us as public phenomenon. Here we can find the debate with public reality from which the major themes of Layton’s poetic work have been molded. The form and the craft are different, but there is consistency of vision and insight which unified the poetic and the prose work.
Taking Sides provides a composite portrait of a Canadian poet deeply engaged in the dilemmas and conflicts of our times. This book shows how one man has struggled and worked his way through the morass, confusions and moral problems of our epoch. In every decade, Layton faced squarely the most pertinent questions of his day, whether it was fascism, liberalism, Marxism, imperialism or communism. In trying to chart his way through the dominant myths of his time, he has consistently adopted a critical attitude to the simple beliefs which engulf people in politics. In the 1930s, he saw the rise of fascism and pleaded for resilient opposition, not appeasement, to the aims of fascist states. While working his way through his M.A. thesis in the 1940s, he explored and exploded the peculiar alliance between Marxism and Stalinism. In the past two decades, Layton has opposed all forms of totalitarianism because he finds it anathema to the spirit of freedom and an assault upon human sensibilities.
Irving Layton is Canada’s greatest poet. The author of 45 books, his works have been translated into 12 languages, including Italian, Spanish, French, Polish, Korean, Greek and Dutch. Major editions of his work have recently been published in Italy and Spain. He was nominated for the Nobel Prize for literature.