Morley Torgov

Morley Torgov is a Canadian-Jewish lawyer, writer, and award-winning novelist and humorist. He was born on 3 December 1927 in Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario. In 1950, he graduated from the University of Toronto with a bachelor of arts. Subsequently, he attended Osgoode Hall, where he obtained his bachelor of laws. Called to the bar in 1954, he has practiced commercial law under his co-partnered firm Olsch, Torgov, Cohen LLP.

Alongside his legal career, Torgov has received critical acclaim as a writer, beginning with the publication of his first book A Good Place to Come From in 1974. The memoir received the Stephen Leacock Memorial Medal for Humour in 1975, which Torgov won two more times: in 1982 for his novel The Outside Chance of Maximilian Glick and in 1990 for his novel St.Farb’s Day. While not limited to these themes, many of Torgov’s stories involve a depiction of the Canadian-Jewish experience through characters and settings that often take place in a satirical plotline. In his 1982 novel, for example, Torgov focuses the story on the influential friendship between bar-mitzvah student Maximilian Glick and his Orthodox rabbi, a connection premised on their shared desire to act on personal ambitions rather than meet their surrounding social expectations.

The collection illustrates the progress of the author’s career, displaying letters of correspondence between Torgov and various publishers and producers, such as CBC, detailing both the rejections and successful publications or productions of his short stories, articles, and plays for theatre and TV. Torgov has had personal writings and reviews published in various papers, including the New York Times Sunday Magazine, the Toronto Star, and the Globe and Mail. His novels have been adapted into films, TV shows, and plays. Directed for the screen by Allan A. Goldstein in 1988, The Outside Chance of Maximilian Glick was named Best Canadian Feature Film at the Toronto International Film Festival of the same year.

Morley Torgov is a prominent member and contributor to numerous Canadian and Jewish institutions, as evident in his many archived speeches, awards, and memorabilia. In 1984, the Canadian National Institute for the Blind (CNIB) made Torgov the first author to receive a “Torgi,” a talking book award named after the author which later recognized the works of other Canadian writers including Margaret Atwood.  He was inducted into the Sault Ste. Marie Walk of Fame in 2000.

Archivist Notes

The Morley Torgov fonds provides a detailed overview of the career and work of the prominent Canadian-Jewish writer and lawyer. Various original drafts, working files, research papers, and plot outlines of these stories, alongside other published and unpublished writings, form a large part of the materials Morley Torgov donated to the Ontario Jewish Archives. The materiality of the collection holds its own equal significance, as Torgov’s planning of stories and cartoon sketches of characters extend to the margins of his notes, typed correspondence and even the folders that hold his documents.

The compilation of the author’s witty and complex narratives offers not only an entertaining read, but an insightful one as well: in addition to illustrating the author’s research-based creative approach, the archived newspaper articles used to develop his plots illustrate a clear idea of the culture and international happenings of the mid-to-late 1900s. The variety of correspondence between the author and large publishers offer a detailed look at the progression of his career as well as the operation of the media industry during the twentieth century, both in Canada and internationally.

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