Matt Cohen


    Matthew (“Matt”) Cohen (30 December 1942 – 2 December 1999) was a Canadian writer, who published both mainstream literature under his own name and children’s literature under the pseudonym Teddy Jam. Cohen was born in Kingston, Ontario, the son of Morris Cohen and Beatrice Sohn, and grew up in Ottawa. He studied political economy at the University of Toronto, and taught political philosophy and religion at McMaster University in the late 1960s before publishing his first novel, Korsoniloff, in 1969. His greatest popular success as a writer was his final novel, Elizabeth and After, which won the 1999 Governor General’s Award for English-language Fiction only a few weeks before his death. He had been nominated twice previously, but had not won, in 1979 for The Sweet Second Summer of Kitty Malone and in 1997 for Last Seen. A founding member of the Writers’ Union of Canada, he served on the executive board for many years and as president in 1986. During his presidency the Writer’s Union was finally able to persuade the government of Canada to form a commission and establish a Public Lending Right program. He also served on the Toronto Arts Council as chair of the Literary Division and was able to obtain increased funding for writers. In recognition of this work he was awarded a Toronto Arts Award and the Harbourfront Prize. He also published a number of children’s books under the pseudonym Teddy Jam. Cohen’s authorship of the Teddy Jam books was not revealed until after his death. The Fishing Summer was also nominated for a Governor General’s Award for children’s literature in 1997, making Cohen one of the few writers ever to be nominated for Governor General’s Awards in two different categories in the same year. He was married three times: first to Arden Ford, next to Susan Bricker and then to Patsy Aldana. Cohen died at home in Toronto after a battle with lung cancer. His final book of short stories, Getting Lucky, and his final Teddy Jam title, The Kid Line, were posthumously published in 2001. A Canadian literary award, the Matt Cohen Prize – In Celebration of a Writing Life, is presented in Cohen’s memory by the Writers’ Trust of Canada. A film adaptation of his 1990 novel Emotional Arithmetic has been produced by Triptych films starring Max von Sydow, Christopher Plummer, Gabriel Byrne and Susan Sarandon. It was the closing gala at the Toronto International Film Festival in 2007.


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