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Mordecai Richler Biography

(1931–2001), Son of a Smaller Hero, The Apprenticeship of Duddy Dravitz, The Incomparable Atuk, Cocksure

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Canadian novelist and short-story writer, born in Montreal, educated at Sir George Williams University. From 1951 to 1972 he was in Britain—‘I wasn't going somewhere as much as getting to hell out of Montreal’; an uneasy, though productive, coming to terms with memories of the now-vanished Montreal Jewish ghetto of his childhood colours much of his best writing, notably Son of a Smaller Hero (1955) and The Apprenticeship of Duddy Dravitz (1959), the tragi-comic story of a young wouldbe entrepreneur, who betrays all who are close to him. Other novels include The Incomparable Atuk (1963), Cocksure (1968), St Urbain's Horseman (1971), Joshua Then and Now (1980), in which Richler again explored the Montreal St Urbain street world, and Solomon Gursky Was Here (1989), epic in scope, which demonstrates the distinctive quality of his writing and is regarded by many as his finest novel. Journalistic work was collected in Hunting Tigers under Glass (1968), Notes on an Endangered Species (1974), and Home Sweet Home: My Canadian Album (1984), a bitter-sweet collection of essays originally published in such journals as Encounter, The New York Review of Books, and Maclean's. In the opening essay, typically entitled ‘Home Is where You Hang Yourself’, Richler comments of his motives for returning to Canada: ‘too many other expatriate Commonwealth writers, writers I respected, had been driven in exile to foreign fictions set in the distant past, the usually dreaded future, or, indeed, nowhere.’ In the essay ‘My Father's Life’ he concludes movingly that with his father's death he is left with ‘unresolved mysteries. A sense of regret. Anecdotes for burnishing.’ More recently he has published Broadsides: Reviews and Opinions (1990), Oh Canada! Oh Quebec!: Requiem for a Divided Country (1992), and This Year in Jerusalem (1994), an autobiographical account of his journey to Israel to clarify his origins and discern the meaning of being a Canadian Jew.

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