COPERNICUS AVENUE

Appearing in spring 2011, from Cormorant Books

Copernicus Avenue is a suite of “urban folk tales” peopled by tramps and war heroes, witches and sidewalk prophets. Inspired by his childhood in Toronto’s Roncesvalles Village, Andrew outlines the Mienkiewicz family’s experience of a “neighbourhood between neighbourhoods,” bordered by the genteel wilderness of High Park and overlooking  the blank horizon of Lake Ontario.

Thadeus Mienkiewicz, a former cavalry officer and air force navigator, arrives on Copernicus Avenue just after World War II. He is part of the first wave of refugee soldiers from Poland’s free armed forces to earn back their freedom as labourers on Canada’s farms and in its mines and lumber camps. He takes an Irish-Canadian wife and raises two sons, but his war is far from over.

As Toronto stirs from its post-colonial slumber, the denizens of Copernicus Avenue struggle to orient themselves in a city whose refusal to “be” is both a blessing and a source of bewilderment. Some craft their lives as penance for past sins, others can’t let go of the bitterness born of past betrayals. To Thadeus’s sons, Blaise and Aleksei, the Avenue is a mythical place that reverberates with dark undertones that their elders can’t quite suppress.

Underpinning the stories is the author’s concern with questions of identity in a post-modern, multicultural society.

Copernicus Avenue is a collision of fact and my personal fictions. It describes a people struggling to ‘become’ in a landscape that resists definition. The Roncesvalles I grew up on defined itself by what it wasn’t—not quite Parkdale, not quite High Park, the better known districts it borders. It’s a popular location for American film crews and, having seen the neighbourhood disguised so often as someplace else, I felt compelled to partly disguise it in my own work by mixing real and fictional place names.”

Other Publications & Awards

Andrew’s short stories have appeared in literary magazines including The New Quarterly, Grain and Storyteller. His story “Twelve Versions of Lech” was nominated for the Writers’ Trust/McClelland & Stewart Journey Prize and published in Journey Prize Stories 19. His work has been supported by the Ontario Arts Council, the Toronto Arts Council, and the Canada Council for the Arts.

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