When Mordecai Richler died in 2001, Adam Gopnik’s obituary in the New Yorker said he had “become inseparable from a place, Montreal, and even a country, Canada, without ever flattering or even saying anything particularly nice about either.” 

Indeed, Mordecai Richler managed to offend nearly everyone. He called Canada “not so much a country as a holding tank filled with the disgruntled progeny of defeated peoples,” and was unapologetic about adding to the disgruntlement of these peoples. He was criticized by Jews for his unflattering portrayal of the Montreal Jewish community he grew up in, which some felt was a little too honest. He regularly threw pot shots at bigoted WASPs. He mocked Quebec’s language laws and Francophone nationalists; following the second referendum and Premier Jacques Parizeau blaming the “ethnic vote” for its failure, Richler said “I’m responding with ridicule” and created the annual $3000 Prix Parizeau award for Quebec’s best ethnic writer. While Jews now look at him with pride, his reputation has only begun to recover among Francophones. However, for those who like sarcasm and biting satire, Richler is a master of the genre.

Mordecai Richler 

Further Reading

Richler’s best novels include The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz (1959), Solomon Gursky was Here (1989), and Barney’s Version (1997).

Foran, Charles. Mordecai: The Life and Times of Mordecai Richler. Toronto: Knopf Canada, 2010.