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Mordecai Richler addresses McGill Class of 2000

When Mordecai Richler left Canada for Paris, he was a brooding young intellectual with lots to say. He returned a prolific, respected writer with a keen eye for the absurd and the magnetism to charm or anger just about all of his contemporaries. From Montreal's Jewish ghetto to Quebec nationalism to boring Anglophones to hypocritical politicians – the incomparable Richler commented, questioned, laughed and angered.

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There's much anticipation on the campus of McGill University. Mordecai Richler is to be honoured on June 7, 2000 with a Doctor of Literature designation. Media speculation has suggested Richler, never one to shy away from making a Statement, will address the school's history of anti-Semitism. When Richler begins his speech, he doesn't disappoint.

"Grievance or injustice-collecting is our national disease and I'm as good as any other Canadian at it, so I'd like to say that I was denied entry to McGill in 1948 because of racial prejudices," he begins. "But the truth is, so bad were my matriculation results that I wouldn't even have qualified for McGill as a mere Gentile," he says to roars of laughter. Richler continues his speech, excerpted in this CBC Radio clip, with wry observation and advice. 
Mordecai Richler is one of the most oft-cited Canadian authors in the Oxford English Dictionary, with 44 citations. Below are some of his entries:
• hell - 1990 Solomon Gursky was Here v. 164 "Nick and I have been through hell and back again together. Sweeping Normandy clean of Nazi punks."
• schmaltz - 1968 Cocksure viii. 46, "I don't want this apartment stinking of schmaltz herring."

• schmutz - 1968 Cocksure xix. 116 "Of my son's ability there is no question." "and, em, the contents of your son's novel. You see" "Shmutz," Daniels shouted at Katansky. "Pardon?" "Filth. Today nothing sells like filth."
• walloping - 1980 Joshua Then & Now I. ii. 55 Joshua slid behind the bar, which was unattended, and poured himself a walloping cognac.
Medium: Radio
Program: As It Happens
Broadcast Date: June 7, 2000
Guest: Mordecai Richler
Host: Mary Lou Finlay
Duration: 5:14

Last updated: August 30, 2013

Page consulted on September 10, 2014

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