There Was a Mr. Cristi

This exciting “literary find,” a never before published novel by the renowned Canadian writer Raymond Knister, tells the story of a woman who tires of living with her “transplanted” husband on his fruit farm outside of Toronto. This ambitious and independent English- born wife leaves for the city with the idea of starting a new life. She goes to Toronto where she moves into a rooming house with some friends, and decides this is exactly the kind of business that would suit her. This woman — Mrs. Cristi — buys a three-storey boarding house that has “dark brick with great bow-windows, and overgrown with vines,” and moves in. What follows is a fascinating tale of life in the 1930s in a house that is inhabited by all these bizarre char- acters. In the background is the “tall and dark and good looking” Mr. Cristi, and we begin to wonder if we will ever come to know him. He is shrouded in mystery as the characters in this rambling old house come alive vividly for us. This novel by Knister was discovered recently by his daughter and only now is being published for the first time. Knister, who died tragically in 1932, was the first Canadian writer to be published in Parisian magazines alongside Hemingway, Joyce and Stein. He also edit- ed the first book of Canadian short stories. Knister was a leading writer of experimental Canadian fiction and poetry in the 1920s. Despite his pioneering role as modernist and modern realist, Knister’s work has never received the attention that it merits, and his literary reputation has yet to be firmly established. While most of the criticism of his work focuses upon his collected poetry and his first published novel, White Narcissus (1929), he was remarkably versatile and prolific.

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