Books – Mordecai: The Life & Times

Mordecai
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Charlie’s biography of Mordecai Richler was published by Alfred A. Knopf Canada in October, 2010. A new soft cover edition was released under the Vintage Canada label in July, 2011.Awards

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Full Index

For reasons of space, Barney Gilmore’s comprehensive full index had to be trimmed to a more limited names-only version in the book. Below is a PDF version of the entire index of the first edition of Mordecai, for those who are interested:

mordecai-full-index Acrobat (PDF) file

Mordecai1st Edition Hardcover
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Young bohemian, irreverent satirist, passionate and controversial Canadian, loyal friend, Old Testament prophet, sworn enemy of cant and hypocrisy, beloved father and tender family man – Mordecai Richler embodied the complexity and appetite for life that he favoured in people, and imbued in his greatest characters. Mordecai – unauthorized, of course – is the first biography of Richler to be written with full, exclusive access to family letters and the private archives. It is a sweeping account of his life – from Montreal, Paris, Ibiza, the South of France, London, and back to Montreal. It is also an extraordinary love story: his devotion to the beautiful Florence Mann, whom he met on the eve of his wedding to another, lasted more than forty years.

Mordecai  brings 1930s and ’40s Montreal vividly to life. Richler survived a harsh childhood inside the orthodox Jewish ghetto, when the city’s historic French Catholicism rubbed up angrily against the “Anglo” Protestantism of the dying Empire, and the waves of Jews from Europe. As a teenager, he flirted with the idea of helping establish the new state of Israel. But the young writer prevailed, and instead he set off for Paris and the 1950s equivalent of the “finishing school” that had similarly seduced Hemingway and Fitzgerald not long before. Post-war London’s smoke-filled parties appealed to Richler no less, and it was there that he wrote his first novels – including The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz, later made into an award-winning film directed by his lifelong friend Ted Kotcheff.

Although it was to the United States that Richler originally turned for literary mentors – the generation birthed by Saul Bellow and the stories of Isaac Babel, his identity formed to equal degrees by the Talmud and the Holocaust, comic book superheroes and Borsch Belt comedians – in the end, there was no gainsaying the pull of “Home, Sweet Home.” Richler, Florence and their five children returned to Montreal, the place that was essential to him.

Throughout nearly five decades as a “scribbler” – novelist, essayist, journalist and screenwriter – Richler wielded his inimitable satiric and comic genius, beloved by many, and shocking to others. When he died, not long after the huge success of his novel Barney’s Version, the funeral tributes that flowed in from across Canada had been equaled previously only by Pierre Elliott Trudeau and Maurice Richard.

In Mordecai, acclaimed novelist and journalist Charles Foran brings to the page the richness of a remarkable life. His portrait is generous and complex, exuberant and alive – like Mordecai Richler himself, who was, as he wanted to be above all, “an honest witness to my life and times.”

 

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