Mordecai Richler

Mordecai Richler

Book - 2009
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One of Canada's top novelists examines the life and work of another Canadian Great.

Both Richler and Vassanji are award-winning novelists who regarded themselves as outsiders in their respective societies - one a Jew in Quebec, the other an Indian in Tanzania who emigrated to Canada. Their experiences were vastly different, but their perspective as outsiders allows each a unique viewpoint. With narrative flair and surprising insights, Vassanji explores the life and artistic quest of the prolific Montreal satirist who died in 2001.

Publisher: Toronto, ON : Penguin Canada, 2009.
ISBN: 9780670066728
Branch Call Number: 819.3 RICHL VAS
Characteristics: xiii, 236 pages ; 21 cm.


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Jun 03, 2012

I have read all of Richler’s novels and consider most to be masterpieces. However, it’s been awhile since reading one and, whist immediately accepting that he should be included in this ‘extraordinary Canadians’ series before I began reading this biography, I found myself surprisingly distanced from the man and even questioning his inclusion about half way through. Perhaps it was being reminded of inconsistencies with many preconceived ideas: his time spent in London (a significantly different environment from Montreal), the knowledge of difficult personal relationships (with his parents, his brother, his first wife etc); sending his children to convent/private schools etc. However, as biographer Vassanji notes in the latter half of the book, “Canada needs a vanguard against mediocrity” & Richler, with his honest, exuberant, self confident, witty, often controversial, indominable style uniquely and unflinchingly provided this - both in his novels and in his various other writings (essays, newspaper articles etc.). Vassanji argues convincingly that Richler significantly broadened the scope of Canadian fiction by writing so passionately and well about immigrants’, specifically Jewish, search for a modern identity in a françaphone environment, itself a unique culture within a predominantly Anglo country.

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