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Canadian History for Kids: Mordecai Richler

2001, July 3 – Mordecai Richler dies at age 70; the social critic and novelist’s work included the novel The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz.

This Canadian History for Kids exclusive looks at the great Canadian. Mordecai Richler.

When he died on July 3, 2001, at the age of 70, Mordecai Richler was known as one of Canada’s greatest novelist. He was also a social critic, a freelance journalist and a scriptwriter for radio, television and film.

Mordecai Richler was born on January 27, 1931, in the old Jewish neighbourhood of St. Urbain Street, in Montreal.

At the age of 19, he moved to Paris to experience life as any writer would. While there he published his first magazine piece, Shades of Darkness.

In 1952 he returned to Montreal where he worked as a radio editor with the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation.

In 1954 he moved to London, England, where he published seven of his ten novels, including his most famous book, The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz, in 1959. The story, of an ambitious young Jewish man, dealt with the Jewish life in the 1930’s and 1940’s in Montreal.

In 1972 he moved his family back to Montreal where he wrote about the Jewish community of Montreal and in particular, of St. Urbain Street.

He wrote for The New Yorker and The American Spectator. He was a columnist for The National Post and for Montreal’s The Gazette. In the late 1980’s and early 1990’s he wrote a monthly book review for the Gentlemen’s Quarterly.

In 1957 he wrote the firm script for the Death of a Salesman. He also wrote film scripts for his novels, The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz, Joshua Then and Now (published in 1980) and Barney’s Version (published in 1997). His story, St. Urbain’s Horseman which was published in 1971, was also made in a television movie with the CBC.

In 1975, he published a novel for children, Jacob Two-Two Meets the Hooded Fang, about a young boy who had to repeat everything he said twice for adults to understand him. He won the first Ruth Schwartz Children’s Book Award in 1976.

In 1990, he published Solomon Gursky Was Here, a controversial novel about Canada’s wealthy Bronfman family. The Bronfmans made their fortune from their Seagram’s Whiskey business. They also had an entertainment empire which included large holdings in Universal Studios and Time-Warner. Edgar Bronfman was also the head of the Jewish World Congress.

Mordecai Richler became most noted, sometimes hated, for his Canadian political views. A piece which he published in the New Yorker in 1991, about attempts to restrict the English language being used in public places in Quebec, angered many French Speaking Quebecers. He then went on to publish a book about Quebec separatist, called Oh Canada! Oh Quebec! Requiem for a Divided Country, in 1992. The separatist hated him and he received many death threats after the book was published, but he attached back with humor.

He continued to write many articles and stories in his usual brutally honest manner about Canada’s political affairs until his death.

In 2001, he won the Companion of the Order of Canada. He was also a two time winner of the Governor General’s Award (in 1968 and again in 1971).

And that’s this week’s Canadian History for Kids, exclusive!

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