CBC Digital Archives

Who is Mordecai Richler speaking for anyway?

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.

media clip
Speak for yourself Richler - this is the message that Professor Patricia Smart and 24 other Canadian writers and intellectuals want on public record. They're upset that Richler's point of view about Quebec nationalism, expressed in Oh Canada! Oh Quebec!, is being commonly touted as the accepted anglophone stand. But others, including historian Michael Bliss, stand by Richler and applaud him for opening up the debate. CBC's Peter Gzowski moderates this lively debate. 
. The signatories of the letter included Maude Barlow, publisher James Lorimer, economist James Laxer, former MP Pauline Jewett, broadcaster and activist Judy Rebick and author Stephen Clarkson. 
  
. The letter stated, "We respect the right of artists to be critical of society, but in this case - in last year's New Yorker article on Quebec and in interviews related to his new book Oh Canada! Oh Quebec! - Richler has made statements that we fear will fuel prejudice and unjustified anger against Quebec in English Canada."

. In an interview with the Toronto Star published April 3, 1992, Richler said "I consider it presumptuous of them to think we were ever associated in the first place." He also added, "They're the usual rent-a-crowd. They write letters, that's all they're good at. I don't think these people understand what is really going on in Quebec."
Medium: Radio
Program: Morningside
Broadcast Date: April 1, 1992
Guest(s): Neil Bissoondath, Michael Bliss, Lenore Keeshig-Tobias, Heather Robertson, Patricia Smart, Rudy Wiebe
Host: Peter Gzowski
Duration: 16:21

Last updated: March 5, 2012

Page consulted on September 10, 2014

All Clips from this Topic

Related Content

Quebec City: 400 Years of History

The Algonquin called it Québec, or "where the river narrows." On a rocky point high above the ...

Robert Bourassa: Political Survivor

Robert Bourassa made history in 1970 by becoming the youngest premier of Quebec, only to suffe...

The Ice Storm of 1998

Canadians had never before endured a natural disaster like the ice storm of 1998. A difficult ...

Hockey Flight in Canada: extra clips

Canada is a hockey nation, but has had a heck of a time preventing its hockey franchises from ...

René Lévesque's Separatist Fight

In the 1960s, René Lévesque made the prospect of a separate Quebec a reality. A shrewd politic...

Getting the Games: Canada's Olympic Bids, ext...

It might be the most ruthless of all Olympic competitions: the race for the right to host the ...