Under the ribs of death
- John Marlyn ; afterword by Neil Bissoondath.
- Marlyn, John
- Toronto : McClelland and Stewart, 2010.
- New Canadian Library ed.
Where to find it
Set in the immigrant community of Winnipeg's North End , Under the Ribs of Death follows the progress of young Sandor Hunyadi as he struggles to cast off his Hungarian background and become a "real Canadian." Embittered by poverty and social humiliation, Sandor rejects his father's impractical idealism and devotes himself single-mindedly to becoming a successful businessman. Equipped with a new name and a hardened heart, he is close to realizing his ambition when fortune's wheel takes an unexpected - and possibly redemptive - turn.
Combining social realism and moral parable, Under the Ribs of Death is John Marlyn's ironic portrayal of the immigrant experience in the years leading up to the Great Depression. As a commentary on the problems of cultural assimilation, this novel is as relevant today as it was when first published in 1957.
One The street was quiet now. His footsteps beat a lonely tattoo on the wooden sidewalk. The wind behind him ruffled his hair. Above him the lights went on, and over the face of Henry Avenue, half-hidden the moment before by soft, fraudulent shadows, there sprang into view an endless grey expanse of mouldering ruin. From the other side of the freight sheds came the rumble of the engines as they started on their nightly round of shunting box-cars to and fro. Through the mingled odours of the neighbourhood, the pervading smell of coal gas and wood rot, there reached him suddenly the aroma of frying meat. He breathed it in hungrily and quickened his steps until he remembered that tonight there would be bologny for supper, with potato salad--yesterday's potatoes in vinegar and water with onions. His shadow moved before him, rippling buoyantly over the uneven boards of the sidewalk. He watched it grow and a deep longing came over him. He saw himself the way he would be when he was a man, sitting in the lobby of the Hotel, bright button shoes on his feet, his hat and cane on a table nearby--rich and well fed and at ease there in one of the great leather chairs, smoking an after-dinner cigar. Some day he would grow up and leave all this, he thought, leave it behind him forever and never look back, never remember again this dirty, foreign neighbourhood and the English gang who chased him home from school every day. He would forget how it felt to wear rummage-sale clothes and be hungry all the time, and nobody would laugh at him again, not even the English, because by then he would have changed his name and would be working in an office the way the English did, and nobody would be able to tell that he had ever been a foreigner. Sandor crossed the street. He climbed to the bench in front of the house and peered into the front room. His father sat there in his working-clothes with his back to the lightbulb, reading; a sad grey figure with bent back and softly moving lips, his face aglow with the reflected light from the open book. A faint scowl came over the boy's face. "Yah, books," he muttered, and dropped quietly from the bench and walked around to the side of the house, cursing as he stumbled over the rubbish that littered the back lane. Now everything depended upon his mother. She had but to raise her voice and his father would give him a beating. He was late, his clothes were torn. He had not done his chores, and worst of all, he had been fighting again. He crept to the open window of the kitchen and looked in. His mother was in the centre of the kitchen with the baby in her lap, humming while she swayed to and fro. It was the first time he remembered seeing her in repose. Her face was free of anxiety, her dark, luminous eyes sad in their depths. He wondered why both his parents always seemed so sad. When he looked at her again it seemed to him that he was looking at a stranger. He had not known that she was beautiful nor had he noticed that she looked so tired. He tip-toed to the woodshed and had already begun to chop some kindling when he noticed a pile of it stacked beside the door. "Christ-aw-mighty," he groaned. "Pa's done it awready." He banged the door shut and walked into the kitchen, rejecting the solicitude that came into his mother's eyes. "You been fighting," she said in a low voice . . . but not low enough. There was a sudden stir in the front room. His heart sank within him as his father appeared. The place where his lip was swollen began to throb now that he felt his father's eyes upon it. He lowered his head. "Come with me." As they walked into the front room his father reached for a length of c Excerpted from Under the Ribs of Death by John Marlyn All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.
- New Canadian library
- Toronto : McClelland and Stewart, 2010.
- First published in 1957 by McClelland & Stewart.
- 300 p. ; 20 cm.
- OCLC Number