Skip to content

Author Profile: Matt Cohen

March 12, 2011

Author: Matt Cohen

Born: December 30, 1942

Died: December 2, 1999

Hometown: Kingston, Ontario

Education: Political Economy at the University of Toronto

His Story: Matt Cohen’s friends and family remember him fondly as an authentic intellectual whose writing was never for want of heart or humour. Notable Canadian author, Graeme Gibson, said of Cohen: “He could, when he got a riff going, reduce a table of people to helpless laughter.” Despite his fond remembrance within the Canadian literary circle, however, far fewer Canadian readers are aware of his brilliance. He published his first novel Korsoniloff at 26 (despite later admitting he thought of it as a “disaster” in his memoir Typing: A Life in 26 Keys). Five years later, his breakthrough novel The Disinherited hit shelves and there was no looking back. While during his lifetime Cohen showed a certain disdain at being left out of the circle of “popular” Canadian writers by critics and media, the fact that he lies both within typical CanLit, and yet transcends it, makes him a writer that we read, love, and then, to our utmost joy, learn is Canadian. His prose floats on your heart, daring you to cry, laugh, or simply get lost, while his humour keeps you from drowning in melancholy, despite the unforgivable consequences of life that his characters often face. There is no doubt that if his life had not been tragically cut short, he would remain one of Canada’s most successful, little-known authors of our time.

Awards and Nominations:

Nominated for the Governor General’s Award for English Language Fiction (1979)- The Sweet Second Summer of Kitty Malone

Nominated for the Governor General’s Award for English Language Fiction (1997)- Last Seen

Nominated for the Governor General’s Award for Children’s Literature (1997)- The Fishing Summer (under the pseudonym Teddy Jam)

Governor General’s Award for English Language Fiction (1999)- Elizabeth and After

Toronto Arts Award and the Harbourfront Prize for his work as chair of the Literary Division of the Toronto Arts Council (obtained more funding for writers)

Matt Cohen Prize- In Celebration of a Writing Life is a Canadian Literary award given to a writer each year in Cohen’s memory by the Writer’s Trust of Canada


Korsoniloff (1969)

Johnny Crackle Sings (1971)

The Disinherited (1974)

Wooden Hunters (1975)

The Colours of War (1977)

The Sweet Second Summer of Kitty Malone (1979)

Flowers of Darkness (1981)

The Spanish Doctor (1984)

Nadine (1987)

Emotional Arithmetic (1990)

Freud: The Paris Notebooks (1991)

The Bookseller (1993)

Last Seen (1997)

Elizabeth and After (1999)

*NOTE: Cohen also published short stories, poems, non-fiction and children’s literature (which was not known until after his death because he used the pseudonym Teddy Jam).

Related Links:

Author Profile: Alice Munro

Matt Cohen, The Canadian Encyclopedia

National Post Article on Matt Cohen

No comments yet

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: