Hot Art: Chasing Thieves and Detectives though the Secret World of Stolen Art
Toronto/Vancouver: Douglas & McIntyre, 2011
From the middle ages until 1995 there was something in the south London borough of Bermondsey called a market ouvert. Anything sold in this market between sunset and dawn, literally under the cover of darkness, conveyed legal title to the purchase, no matter how dodgy its provenance. Unscrupulous dealers bought antiques and fine art from even more dishonest burglars and conmen, who likely acquired them within the previous twelve hours. If you have ever bought an antique in London, there is a chance that it was stolen. Bermondsey, literally, was a thieves’ market.
This week, Canadian history buffs across the nation celebrated Sir John A. Macdonald‘s 197th birthday, remembering the contributions of our country’s first prime minister and great uniter. We celebrated our early history even as one of our most storied publishing houses, McClelland and Stewart, was taken over by the German-owned Random House, leaving a big question mark as to the future of Canadian publishing and, in many ways, the question of Canadian identity.
A: Apparently to Germany. Today it was announced that the German-based publishing conglomerate Bertelsmann AG, which owns Random House, took full control of McClelland and Stewart, venerable independent Canadian publishing house and champion of Canadian literature through its flowering in the 20th century under the leadership of Jack McClelland, when it published such stars in our firmament as Margaret Atwood, Michael Ondaatje, and Farley Mowat (the triumvirate one can generally rely upon new CanLit students to name). Douglas Gibson, longtime Editor at McClelland and Stewart, became a household name himself as he steered the work of writers and the reading tastes of Canadians. The New Canadian Library, brainchild of Sinclair Ross and Jack McClelland and published by M&S starting in 1958, introduced countless Canadians to their literary history.