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Volume 40, Number 2 (2015)

Exile beyond Return: Zionism and Diaspora in A.M. Klein’s Journalism

May 11, 2016


This essay examines the significance of A.M. Klein’s journalism to his career and his personal life, with a special emphasis on the serialized “Notebook of a Journey” (1949) that he published as an editorial-travelogue in the Canadian Jewish Chronicle. Building on the work of Klein scholars and editors, I argue that his journalism best epitomizes the central tension between his public persona as a Zionist and his private struggle with early Israeli nationalism’s incompatibility with his diasporic Jewish Canadian identity. “Notebook” is characterized by an intense spiritual and ethical engagement with the plight of the Jewish diaspora and the question of Israel as a redemptive homeland. As a Zionist, Klein identifies Israel as a “home” or spiritual homeland, and as a result he considers his journey as a symbol of a larger spiritual return, one that spans millennia, of Jews scattered by diaspora returning to their historical place of origin. Although many works of travel writing construct the narrative in terms of a linear movement from journey to return, Klein’s travel journalism accounts for the generations of exile that preceded his journey, suggesting a far more circuitous narrative movement. His work acknowledges the atrocities of colonial oppression of diasporic Jews that culminated in the Holocaust, but it also seeks spiritual solace in this exilic “return” journey or pilgrimage to Israel.