Mordecai Richler is a Québécois!
The readers of AngryFrenchGuy have spoken! Whether he likes it or not, Mordecai Richler was a “part of the tribe” even though he was Anglo and Jewish. And although the vote was anything but unanimous, Francos, Anglos and Allos are just about equally divided on the Québecness of Mordecai.
Ten Years after an infamous series of articles in the New Yorker by Mordecai Richler that permanently fixed in the English-speaking psyche the idea that Québec as an anti-semitic backwater, the New York Times finally gave someone an opportunity to defend the province’s honor.
Filmmaker and novelist Jacques Godbout wrote 3000 words for the NYT titled A Symbolic Nation Aspires to the International, published just as a massive festival of Québec culture – just about big enough to actually get someone’s attention in that city – was kicking off at the World Financial Center in downtown Manhattan.
The article was published on September 16th 2001, five days after that thing happened. No one ever read it. Most of the Québec/New York 2001 exhibition was buried under the 20th century.
In his piece Godbout calls Richler Québec’s greatest writer. He recalls that they had both left for Europe in 1954 to escape Québec’s stagnant conservatism. Godbout returned in 1960 as the Quiet revolution was starting. Richler only came back in 1972. Godbout argues Richler never understood the old reactionary and priest-ridden Québec of is youth was gone.
That’s probably not fair. Mordecai Richler new very well that attacking the Québec nation from outside, in English, was precisely the best way to summon that old defensive reflex that people swore was gone. That was his way. He looked at society, found tender wounds and jabbed repeatedly with his Bic pen.
That said, Mordecai Richler did not play fair either. He started his fight in New York, an arena where no one from Québec had the stature, let alone the command of English, to rebut him. A more courageous writer would’ve wanted an adversary.
Godbout’s at bat came much to late. Richler was dead. And then all these other people died and it really didn’t matter anymore…