On investing George Jonas, 78, as Member of the Order of Canada in February, 2014, the Governor General praised his "clever, unafraid, and compelling" journalism, adding that Jonas was also "a successful scriptwriter, poet, librettist, and novelist." South of the border, John O'Sullivan of National Review Online noted the appointment, writing: "Today [Jonas] is Canada's preeminent conservative public intellectual, and as Mark Steyn pointed out a few years ago in this space, that description remains true when you remove the word 'conservative' from it."
Education and career
George Jonas was born in Budapest, Hungary, in 1935, the son of Dr. Georg M. Hübsch (1883-1972), a lawyer, composer, and former member of the Viennese State Opera, and Magda Hübsch (1905-1997) whose first husband, Julius Jonas, went missing at the Russian Front in 1942. After attending the Lutheran Gymnasium between 1945 and 1954, Jonas worked briefly as a program editor for Radio Budapest. Following the Hungarian uprising of 1956, he emigrated to Canada, where he did freelance work as a print and broadcast journalist until the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation offered him a staff position in 1962. Working as an editor and producer on staff and contract for the next 34 years, Jonas produced his last show for CBC-TV in 1996. Following his departure from the CBC, he was a freelance writer/producer based in Toronto. In 2005 he was appointed Senior Policy Advisor to the Aurea Foundation, for which he co-created the semi-annual public affairs series, the Munk Debates, featuring such participants as former British Prime Minister Tony Blair and former U.S. Secretary of State, Dr. Henry Kissinger, among many others.
Jonas married the late Sylvia Jonas (née Nemes) in New York in 1962. Their son, Alexander, was born in 1964 in Toronto, where they lived until they separated in 1968. Jonas married his second wife, Barbara Amiel, in 1974 and he lived in Toronto with her until they divorced in 1979. Jonas and his third wife, Maya Jonas (née Cho), lived together, also in Toronto, from 1986 until his death in 2016.
Works for print, screen, broadcast and stage
In addition to 16 books, some of became national and international bestsellers, Jonas wrote three works for live stage (The European Lover, a one-act opera, with music by Tibor Polgar, directed by Leon Major, first performed in 1965; The Glove, a one-act opera, with music by Tibor Polgar, directed by Alan Lunn, first performed in 1973; and Pushkin, a full-length stage play, directed by Marion Andre, first performed in 1979). Jonas also wrote and/or produced and/or directed over 200 dramas and documentary dramas for the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, including the award-winning radio and TV series, The Scales of Justice (1981-1996). A film, Sword of Gideon, based on Jonas's book Vengeance, and directed by Michael Anderson, featured Michael York, Colleen Dewhurst, Lino Ventura, and Rod Steiger. Another film, Munich, directed by Steven Spielberg and starring Eric Bana, was nominated for five Academy Awards for 2005.
Jonas contributed features, reviews, columns, poetry as well as aviation and motorsport journalism to many Canadian periodicals and newspapers; also to such U.S. and British publications and wire services as the Daily Telegraph, Saturday Review, National Review, The Wall Street Journal, The National Interest, The Chicago Sun-Times, the Middle East Quarterly, Foreign Policy, the Hungarian Review, and United Press International. He was a contributing editor and columnist for The Canadian Lawyer, a contributing editor of Toronto Life, and a weekly columnist for the Toronto Sun (1981-2001).
His most recent books were Beethoven's Mask: Notes on My Life and Times, published by Key Porter Books in 2005; a collection of essays, Reflections on Islam, released by Key Porter Books in 2007; and The Jonas Variations: A Literary Séance, a cavalcade of poetry, biography, autobiography, and irreverent literary history, published by Cormorant Books in 2011.
A new poetry collection, Selected Poems: 1967-2011, will be available in February 2016.
Honours and awards
- "Edgar Allan Poe" Award for Best Fact Crime Book for By Persons Unknown, Mystery Writers of America. (New York, 1978.)
- "Nelly" Award (twice) for Best Canadian Radio Program for The Scales of Justice, A.C.T.R.A. and Texaco. (Toronto, 1983 and 1986.)
- "Gabriel" Award for Best Radio Entertainment Program in North America for The Scales of Justice. (San Antonio, Texas,1985.)
- Gold Medal, New York International Radio Festival, for The Scales of Justice. (New York, 1986.)
- Inaugural "Scales of Justice" Award, Law Reform Commission and the Canadian Bar Association, for The Scales of Justice. (Ottawa, 1986.)
- Periodical Distributors of Canada "Author's Award" (three times) for Best Paperback Book for By Persons Unknown (Toronto, 1978); Vengeance (Ottawa, 1985); and for Personality Feature ("The Nice Man Cometh," Toronto Life, 1987.)
- International World of Motorcycling "Max Award" (twice) for motorsport journalism and for A Passion Observed. (Toronto, 1980 and 1989.)
- National Magazine Award for journalism (three times) for "Legally Bombed," Saturday Night, 1991; "The Spielberg Massacre," Maclean's Magazine, 2006; and "Meditations on Israel," Queen's Quarterly, 2007.
- "Gemini" Award (twice) for Best TV Movie for Regina vs. Nelles, The Scales of Justice, and for Best Short Dramatic Program for Regina vs. Stewart, The Scales of Justice, Academy of Canadian Cinema and Television. (Toronto, 1993.)
- The Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal "in recognition of his contributions to Canada" in 2012, and
- Appointed Member of the Order of Canada for "thought-provoking" and "compelling" journalism in 2013.