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Is Mordecai Richler a Jewish anti-Semite?

The Story

"I've really been an old fashioned moralist," Mordecai Richler explains, indicating that no one is free from satiric treatment. It's not the values, he says, but rather the corruption of values that he explores in his novels. Critics are bundling Richler within an emerging literary circle of young Jewish writers, including American author Phillip Roth. Richler accepts the classification and describes his place within his culture as being alienated from and misunderstood by his parent's "synagogue generation." With each book that is published, more and more labels are pinned to Richler. He has been called a self-righteous Canadian and a Jewish anti-Semite. And now because of his newest novel Cocksure, which takes aim at liberal smug satisfaction, he is being called a writer of filth. But in what is becoming quintessential Richler, he seems rather amused and, in this CBC Radio interview with Robert Fulford, admits that Cocksure is a "rather vile book".

Medium: Radio
Program: This is Robert Fulford
Broadcast Date: July 23, 1968
Guest(s): Mordecai Richler
Host: Robert Fulford
Duration: 26:48

Did You know?

• In Cocksure, Richler writes about a Canadian editor's confused existence in London. Hypocrites and eccentrics surround Mortimer Griffin in this unsparing satire about liberal self-righteousness.

• Richler won the Governor General's Award for fiction in 1968 for Cocksure and again in 1971 for St. Urbain's Horseman.

• When Mordecai Richler was growing up, his mother Lily hoped that her son might become a rabbi like her father. Even at an early age, Lily felt that her son's writing was "morally informed."

• When Richler was a teenager, he was a member of a Zionist youth group and had aspirations to move to Israel. He later said that when he attended Sir George Williams College in Montreal, his perspective broadened and he soon after left for Paris.

• Richler's separation from religion was the root of his estrangement with his father, Moses, before they eventually reconciled in 1967.

• When Richler was 13, he read All Quiet on the Western Front and was moved by its power.

• Richler was class president of Baron Byng high school in Montreal. Other graduates of the school include poet Irving Layton and Jack Rabinovitch, founder of the Giller Prize for fiction. It wasn't until Richler attended Sir George Williams College that he made his first non-Jewish friends, which he explained widened his world and made him seek new boundaries abroad.


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