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Mordecai Richler's masterpiece

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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Admirers praise it, critics flinch at its unsparing satire and everyone else is wondering just exactly who this book is about. Mordecai Richler's newest novel Solomon Gursky Was Here is an ambitious tale of smuggling, cannibalism and ambition, spanning 150 years and four generations across North America and Europe. Some speculate it's about Sam Bronfman of the Seagram's whisky empire. But Richler is mum on the subject, refusing to reduce his epic into gossip and ingratiate himself with his readers. Mary Lou Finlay reviews the novel in this CBC Radio piece. 
• "I write for myself and my wife and a small community of friends. And then you hope for the widest possible readership. But I don't do anything to ingratiate myself with readers, I wouldn't taint my work in terms of appeal or audience. But of course I hope for the largest possible audience so long as it's on my own terms." - Mordecai Richler, Sunday Morning, CBC Radio, 1979.

• Francine Prose, of the New York Times Book Review, wrote in 1990 that "Solomon moves behind the scenes, operating like an omniscient author - that is to say, like God - prompted by 'an unquenchable itch to meddle and provoke things, to play tricks on the world and its creatures.' So, as the black raven soars over the book's final paragraph, we discover that Solomon Gursky (and Mordecai Richler) have shaped their clever plot in a perfect circle, a narrative design that restores order and brings a welcome reassurance of closure, two things we so rarely expect from life and cherish, all the more, in the novel."
Medium: Radio
Program: Sunday Morning
Broadcast Date: Oct. 29, 1989
Guest(s): Mordecai Richler
Reporter: Neil Monroe
Duration: 12:38

Last updated: March 5, 2012

Page consulted on September 10, 2014

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