|Birth Day:||March 12, 1912|
|Death Date:||Jan 4, 2006 (age 93)|
As per our current Database, Irving Layton died on Jan 4, 2006 (age 93).
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Irving Layton was born on March 12, 1912, as Israel Pincu Lazarovitch in Târgu Neamţ to Romanian-Jewish parents, Moses and Klara Lazarovitch. He migrated with his family to Montreal, Quebec in 1913, where they lived in the impoverished St. Urbain Street neighbourhood, later made famous by the novels of Mordecai Richler. There, Layton and his family (his father died when he was 13) faced daily struggles with, among others, Montreal's French Canadians, who were uncomfortable with the growing numbers of Jewish newcomers. Layton, however, identified himself not as an observant Jew but rather as a freethinker.
Layton graduated from Alexandra Elementary School and attended Baron Byng High School, where his life was changed when he was introduced to such poets as Tennyson, Walter Scott, Wordsworth, Byron, and Shelley; the novelists Jane Austen and George Eliot; the essayists Francis Bacon, Oliver Goldsmith, Samuel Johnson, and Jonathan Swift; and also Shakespeare and Darwin. He was befriended by David Lewis and became very interested in politics and social theory. He joined the Young People's Socialist League or YPSL (commonly pronounced "Yipsel"), which Lewis led. He began reading Karl Marx and Nietzsche. His activities in YPSL were deemed a threat to the high school administration, and he was asked to leave before graduating in 1930. It was Lewis who introduced Layton to A. M. Klein. Lewis asked Klein to be Layton's Latin tutor so he could pass the junior matriculation exams. Lewis gave him $10 to pay the fee for the exam and he passed. It was also during his time with Klein that he became interested in the sound of poetry.
Despite Layton's limited educational opportunities, his lack of a high school diploma, and his limited finances, he enrolled in Macdonald College (McGill) in 1934 and received a Bachelor of Science degree in Agriculture.
In 1936 Layton met Faye Lynch, whom he married in 1938. When Layton graduated from Macdonald College in 1939, he moved with Faye to Halifax, where he worked odd jobs, including a stint as a Fuller Brush salesman. Soon disenchanted with his life, Layton decided to return to Montreal. He began teaching English to recent immigrants to make ends meet and continued doing so for many years.
Indecisive about his future and enraged by Hitler's violence toward Jews and destruction of European culture, Layton enlisted in the Canadian army in 1942. While training at Petawawa, Layton met Betty Sutherland, an accomplished painter (and later poet), and a half-sister to actor Donald Sutherland. Layton soon divorced Faye and married Betty. They had two children together: Max Reuben (1946) and Naomi Parker (1950). In 1943 Layton was given an honourable discharge from the army and returned to Montreal, where he became involved with several literary magazines including the seminal Northern Review, which he co-edited with John Sutherland.
In 1946 Layton received an M.A. in economics and political science from McGill (with a thesis on Harold Laski). Three years later he began teaching English, history, and political science at the Jewish parochial high school Herzliah (a branch of the United Talmud Torahs of Montreal). He was an influential teacher, and some of his students became writers and artists. Among his students was television magnate Moses Znaimer. Layton continued to teach for the greater part of his life: as a teacher of modern English and American poetry at Sir George Williams University (now Concordia University) and as a tenured professor at Toronto's York University from 1969 to 1978. At York one of his first students was Joseph Pivato who became a writer, critic and academic. Layton delivering many lectures and readings throughout Canada. Layton pursued his PhD in 1948, but he abandoned it due to the demands of his already hectic professional life. In 1976, he received an honorary doctorate from Concordia University.
In the late 1950s, friends introduced Layton to Aviva Cantor, who had emigrated to Montreal from her native Australia in 1955. After several years of painful indecision, Layton and Betty separated, and Layton moved in with Aviva. The two had a son, David, in 1964. Though Layton remained legally married to Betty, his relationship with Aviva lasted more than twenty years, ending only in the late 1970s when Aviva left.
By the mid-1950s, Layton's activism and poetry had made him a staple on the CBC televised debating program "Fighting Words", where he earned a reputation as a formidable debater. The publication of A Red Carpet for the Sun in 1959 secured Layton's national reputation while the many books of poetry that followed eventually gave him an international reputation, never as high, however, in the United States and Britain as it was in some countries where Layton was read in translation.
In 1974 Irving met Harriet Bernstein, who was enrolled in his Poetry Workshop at York University. Although he was still living with Aviva, Irving and Harriet began an affair that continued for four years, culminating in their legal marriage in November 1978. In order to marry Harriet, Irving finally took the required legal action to divorce Betty, which he had neglected to do until this time. In 1981 a daughter, Samantha Clara, was born to Harriet and Irving. The marriage ended in a bitterly contested divorce. Layton then met Anna (Annette) Pottier and invited her to be his housekeeper, although it soon became apparent that she would play a far greater role in his life. Although 48 years his junior she became his fifth and last wife. They lived briefly in Niagara-on-the-Lake in the fall of 1982 and then spent nearly a year in Oakville, Ontario, before moving, at the end of 1983, to the Montreal district of Notre-Dame-de-Grâce. It was here that Layton wrote his memoir Waiting For the Messiah and with Pottier's support saw to the publication of his final books and translations. The couple eventually agreed that Pottier needed to begin a life of her own, and she moved out on March 1, 1995. Friends took care of Layton after he was diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease. He died at the Maimonides Geriatric Centre in Montreal at the age of 93 on January 4, 2006.
Throughout the 1950s and on into the early 1990s Layton travelled widely abroad and became especially popular in South Korea and Italy. In 1981 these two nations nominated him for the Nobel Prize for Literature. (The prize that year was instead awarded to novelist Gabriel García Márquez.) Among his many awards during his career was the Governor-General's Award for A Red Carpet for the Sun in 1959. In 1976 he was made an Officer of the Order of Canada. He was the first non-Italian to be awarded the Petrarch Award for Poetry.
In 2015 Pottier published her memoir, Good As Gone: My Life With Irving Layton (Dundurn Press, March 14, 2015).
Currently, Irving Layton is 109 years, 10 months and 12 days old. Irving Layton will celebrate 110th birthday on a Saturday 12th of March 2022.
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