George Jonas

George Jonas (1935-2016)

George Jonas, 21-year-old Hungarian Freedom Fighter arrived in Canada with no English language and went on to recognition as a Canadian poet, playwright, novelist, CBC broadcaster and journalist ending up widely respected by his profession and with membership in the Order of Canada for his ‘thought provoking and compelling journalism”.

The only child of  Magda Klug and George Hubsch, former soloist with the Viennese State Opera and then a lawyer and wealthy business man, George’s home was a centre of European culture with musical entertainment and animated discussion.  He read voraciously as a child in the extensive library at home learning to speak and read German, French, Hungarian, some Russian and enrolled in a Lutheran Gymnasium for high school.  George did not attend university, noting that “I attribute whatever I know to not having gone to school”. His secular and assimilated Jewish family survived the Nazi occupation and Holocaust finding refuge with both Jewish and gentile friends.  The family’s home and livelihood were confiscated when the Communists took over the country in 1948. He worked briefly as a junior editor with Radio Budapest and fled the country of his birth in 1965 after the short-lived Hungarian Revolution. His experience led to a passionate and life-long belief in freedom from fascists, communists, Islamists and any other totalitarians.

Jonas’ writing covers most literary genres including fifteen nonfiction and one fiction book, works for live stage, award-winning radio and TV series, columns and features for Canadian and international newspapers and periodicals, contributing editor and columnist for The Canadian Lawyer, aviation and motorsport journalism while poetry  bookends his literary career.

His 2005 autobiography Beethoven’s Mask, Notes on my Life and Times intertwines personal narrative and family stories with world events between 1935 and 2001. The immigrant experience and the legal system are common themes.  The Final Decree (1981), Jonas’ only work of fiction, tells the tragic story of Kazmer an honest humble Hungarian villager confronting a society he cannot understand and which does not take the time to understand him.  By Persons Unknown: The Strange Death of Christine Demeter (1977), co-authored with Barbara Amiel and winner of the 1978 Mystery Writers of America Edgar Allan Poe Award for Best Fact Crime Book follows the complex trial of wealthy Hungarian immigrant Peter Demeter charged with the murder of his beautiful Austrian model wife. Vengeance: The True Story of an Israeli Counter-terrorist Mission 1984, Jonas’ most popular as well as most controversial book, details the covert counter-terrorist unit, purportedly created by Mossad, to avenge the murder of 11 Israeli athletes at the 1972 Munich Olympics. In The Jonas Variations: A Literary Séance (2011) the author revises the poems of foreign poets with English words.

Selected Poems:1967-2011 published posthumously in 2016

Anita Madill

Calgary Women’s Literary Club: 2017, March 14