AngryFrenchGuy

Mordecai Richler is a Québécois!

with 41 comments

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…

Written by angryfrenchguy

September 27, 2008 at 8:44 pm

Posted in Who is Nous?

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41 Responses

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  1. AFG, you probably don’t even realize how inapporpriate your words are but writing “…even though he was Anglo and Jewish” says so much about you and Quebec.

    T.K.

    September 28, 2008 at 12:45 am

  2. Correction: Richler didn’t write a series of articles for the New Yorker. It was just the one article, if memory serves me right.

    T.K.

    September 28, 2008 at 12:48 am

  3. “AFG, you probably don’t even realize how inapporpriate your words are but writing “…even though he was Anglo and Jewish” says so much about you and Quebec.”

    Actually, I was deliberately paraphrasing Mordecai Richler himself.

    angryfrenchguy

    September 28, 2008 at 9:43 am

  4. What’s with the new format?
    Did you choose it or did WordPress.com impose it upon you?

    T.K.

    September 28, 2008 at 11:02 am

  5. My brother in law, a crypto-sovereignist who works for the federal government, refuses to read any Richler novels because of the slight he felt with the New Yorker article. He unwittingly has joined the entire Bronfman clan when “Solomon Gursky was here” was published. What Quebec nationalists don’t know about Richler is the huge controversy most of his writings caused in his own community. Because of sovereignists’ inherent persecution complex, they naturally feel Richler was unduly picking on them, when he was also picking on his own kind with a lot more irony and satire.

    That they ignore him is their loss, not his. How ironic.

    Dave

    September 30, 2008 at 7:57 pm

  6. “My brother in law, a crypto-sovereignist who works for the federal government, refuses to read any Richler novels because of the slight he felt with the New Yorker article.”

    There are the Bernard Landry-types who refuse to read him, and then there are people like Louise Beaudoin who, when she was minister responsible for Bill 101, graciously accepted to review Barney’s Version for La Presse.

    angryfrenchguy

    September 30, 2008 at 8:37 pm

  7. For Québécois who think that Richler singled them out, I recommend a book called St. Urbain’s Horseman (which I believe was made into a TV movie on CBC a short while back). In the book, Richler turns his pen on Israelis, the Jewish Canadian establishment, and anglo Canadian intellectuals, among others. The portrait he paints is not flattering.

    Richler was one of those people–I am another–who reacted badly to all nationalisms. It stands to reason that he would oppose Québécois nationalism, too, as he was exposed to it all the time.

    littlerob

    October 1, 2008 at 5:42 am

  8. Wow Mme Beaudoin actually reviewed a Richler novel, well I guess we can all go home tonight with the knowledge that Quebec nationalists are open to all comers, all inclusive etc . Unfortunately, the Landrys, Suzanne Tremblays, Raymond Villeneuves etc etc of this world tend to prove the contrary.

    Dave

    October 1, 2008 at 7:45 am

  9. Dave,

    Bernard Landry speaks english and spanish currently.
    He is also ” membre de l’exécutif de fondation de la Ligue des droits de l’homme” and was also advocating a supranational confederation of Quebec and Canada, inspired by the institutions of the European Union.

    Not bad for someone you accuse to be exclusive…

    Are you able to do half the same?

    Kriss

    October 1, 2008 at 4:32 pm

  10. “Whether he likes it or not”? Mordecai often referred to himself as a Quebecer–throughout ‘Oh Canada! Oh Quebec!’, mentioned above, for example. Read up.

    Martin Patriquin

    October 2, 2008 at 7:37 am

  11. Martin:

    When you “read up” on “Oh Canada! Oh Quebec!”, read up on what Richler wrote about me on page 121.

    T.K.

    October 2, 2008 at 9:14 am

  12. TK- Dunno who you are.

    Martin Patriquin

    October 2, 2008 at 12:44 pm

  13. Kriss,

    Ok ok Bernie is not such a bad guy, and not overly partisan either. Here is a guy who quit as head of the PQ because he “only “had 76% support and claims that the referendun was stolen at 49.6 %. He sees red rags (Canadian flags) out of every window in Old Quebec and flips out, he curses a young Mexicamn hotel clerk in Montreal, blaming her and her “ethnics” for the referendum loss. When the PQ came in third last election he managed to pull victory out of defeat by claiming 2/3 of Quebecers had voted for non-federalist parties. I even heard him on the radionot later than today claiming that: ” not until the national question is settled democratically” can we have “normal” politics.

    Hey we’ve had 2 referendums, he still doesn’t accept the people’s verdict. I don’t get it, maybe I said exclusive, I should have said obtuse.

    Bernie was never elected premier of Quebec, he inherited the job from Lucien and then lost. If he’s the best the soveignist side can come up with as an example of fotitude and intellectual superiority, no wonder they lose.

    Dave

    October 2, 2008 at 4:59 pm

  14. Once I saw him, he had a fork and flame came out of his nostrils….But what do you expect from Hitler’s brother?

    Kriss

    October 2, 2008 at 10:07 pm

  15. “Hey we’ve had 2 referendums, he still doesn’t accept the people’s verdict.”

    According to this logic, as NDP was never elected in Ottawa after so many elections, after the next one, Jack Layton should accept people verdict and all NDP members should join the Conservative Party.

    Think twice and thrrrrice before talking please.

    Kriss

    October 3, 2008 at 2:06 pm

  16. electing one party or another happens every 3-5 years, if you don’t like the government you vote them out.

    A referendum on creating two countries out of one is slightly more important than electing a party. The consequences are 100 times more important. You can have all the referenda you want, Landry says:” until such a time as the national question is resolved democratically” which either implies its not resolved or that the 2 referenda were not democratic. Comparing that with jumpin Jack’s chances of being PM is rich.

    Dave

    October 6, 2008 at 8:21 am

  17. “You can have all the referenda you want, Landry says:” until such a time as the national question is resolved democratically” which either implies its not resolved or that the 2 referenda were not democratic.”

    The referendum resolves the issue until the people democratically re-elect a party that says it wants a rematch.

    You know, supporters of the Canadian federation have had 27 years since the first referendum to convince us that Canada is better than an independent Québec and to fix what was wrong with the federation.

    Instead they spent 27 years going: ‘Nananana! We won! We’re the best!” and then they’re all surprised that some us still support independence.

    Like your said, Dave, “A referendum on creating two countries out of one is slightly more important than electing a party.” 50,4% of the total vote and 39% of the French-speaking vote was not a victory for Canada by any stretch of the imagination.

    It was proof that Canada is a seriously messed up country.

    angryfrenchguy

    October 6, 2008 at 9:20 am

  18. Yes. The Oct. 30, 1995 referendum was the hockey equivalent of winning in triple overtime with a puck deflected off a defenceman’s skate, but the way it’s been portrayed is as if Canada has creamed Kazakhstan 12-0 with one hand tied behind their backs!

    Acajack

    October 6, 2008 at 9:43 am

  19. so is it like hockey , best of seven series, Non 2, Oui 0 or does one oui automatically give you the cup?
    And by the way, who exactly is asking for a rematch? Not Mme Marois and certainly not Gilles Duceppe with his $ 139,000 p.a. lifetime indexed federal pension?

    If Canada is so ”seriously messed up”, why can’t the sovereignists muster up enough political courage to vote it out of existence? One clear question, one clear majority and bingo, fini, end of colonial exploitation and centuries of grievances, yet… not just yet, timing issues,….No need for a messy war of independence, no need for a revolution, yet…

    AGF I will put the same question to you, you have had 27 years to convince us of the righteousness of your cause, you have spent 27 years bitching about the ”stolen referendum” and harped on about the raw deal you have been getting, yet support for your option has weakened. Sovereignists will blame everybody anbd everything for their miseries, yet never look in the mirror at the appeal of their ownproject.

    Dave

    October 6, 2008 at 7:47 pm

  20. “AGF I will put the same question to you, you have had 27 years to convince us of the righteousness of your cause, you have spent 27 years bitching about the ‘’stolen referendum” and harped on about the raw deal you have been getting, yet support for your option has weakened. Sovereignists will blame everybody anbd everything for their miseries, yet never look in the mirror at the appeal of their ownproject.”

    That just not true. Support for independence has not weakned in any significant way, 27 years later, an important number of Québec’s best and brightest still dedicate a part of their lives to promoting this ideal, new supporters are convinced every day in the once ignored ‘cutural communities’ and most politicians of every stripe now claim to be supporters of the indepandantists acheivements, starting with bill 101.

    Keep telling yourself that Marois is not promissing a referendum because deep down she just lusts for the maple leaf.

    It’s not a hockey game. Get that out of your head. As long as YOU don’t convince every single one of us, we keep working and we keep coming back.

    angryfrenchguy

    October 6, 2008 at 8:22 pm

  21. Dave:
    “One clear question, one clear majority”
    Wasn’t the last one clear?
    Didn’t you understand it?
    I did and so did everybody…

    Kriss

    October 6, 2008 at 8:56 pm

  22. indeed the question was pretty clear…

    midnightjack

    October 6, 2008 at 9:43 pm

  23. “indeed the question was pretty clear”

    It seems the question was only clear to those who voted no. How lucky they were to have a brain, weren’t they?

    Kriss

    October 6, 2008 at 10:58 pm

  24. “so is it like hockey , best of seven series, Non 2, Oui 0 or does one oui automatically give you the cup?”

    The point that I, at least, was making, wasn’t to ask for another referendum. I was just expressing my dismay at the triumphalism of the Non side post-1995. I think it might be enlightening to have a look at the videos of speeches made by Pierre Elliot Trudeau in the spring of 1980 and Jean Chrétien in the fall of 1995 to see what they promised concretely in order to convince people to vote Non, and then follow-up with what their governments actually did to cater to Quebec’s “aspirations”.

    It seems to me that the main post-referendum achievement of the Trudeau government on the unity front was the patriation of our Constitution without Quebec’s signature. Chrétien’s main achievement was the Clarity Act.

    Not sure if I were the PM of Canada that I’d want to go to battle against the separatists in a future referendum campaign with that as the most potent ammo in my magazine.

    Acajack

    October 7, 2008 at 8:48 am

  25. Here is the exact question: (sorry I can’t find English version)

    “”Acceptez-vous que le Québec devienne souverain, après avoir offert formellement au Canada un nouveau partenariat économique et politique, dans le cadre du projet de loi sur l’avenir du Québec et de l’entente signée le 12 juin 1995?”

    Even though the “entente signée le 12 juin 1995” alluded to was the partisan agreement between the three Yes side supporters- Jacques Parizeau, Lucien Bouchard and Mario Dumont. It had nothing whatsoever to do with any future partnership with any other country. It was included in the question in order to incite those who might think the partnership with Canada was actually a done deal, to vote Yes.

    In fact a poll demonstrated that 30 % of those who actually voted Yes believed that the partnership deal was done, that even after a yes vote they would remain Canadian and only the powers of Quebec in Canada would be enhanced.

    So much for clarity. At least if there ever is a next time, the yes side can ask an honest question, ie Do you accept that Quebec separates from Canada to become an independent country ? Yes or No

    Canada is one of the few countries in the world that actually has a law on its books providing for the secession of parts of it. Try finding out how any part of the USA, France, Italy, Germany, China (Tibet) etc could legally split by a simple referendum.

    Dave

    October 7, 2008 at 9:19 am

  26. “That just not true. Support for independence has not weakned in any significant way,” so why then don’t either the Bloc or the PQ call for a referendum ?

    “As long as YOU don’t convince every single one of us, we keep working and we keep coming back.”

    I’m not trying to convince anybody of anything. I’m just tired of hearing the same old “victims of colonialism’ schtick. There’s nothing inherently wrong with supporting an independent Quebec but please change the record,its all been heard before. Nobody is complaining about bill 101, Galganov don’t live here no more. Lord Durham died 140 years ago. The sovereignists have held power several times, they have achievements which are undeniable, lucky for us all. AGF I’m not aiming these criticisms at you personally but at the movement and their spokespersons.

    Have you listened or read Gérald Larose ? Isn’t he the president of le Conseil de la souveraineté, and as such speaks for the movement. I thought Marxism/Lenism went out with the Berlin wall. Why is he so bitter, he always sounds like he’s out for revenge and has mastered the art of righteous indignation. How about the “brilliant film maker Pierre Falardeau ? Quebecers are a conquered people who have been subjugated and now can’t think on their own , according to his numerous diatribes laced with swearing.

    Quebecers are able to create the third largest aerospace company in the world, the largest live entertainment troupe on the planet, generate a lively arts and culture scene and yet when it comes time to decide our future, we same Quebecers are burdened by our colonial past to the point of being unable to freely decide our political destiny. Come on! There is a disconnect between the two and I don’t see the sovereignty movement looking to the future.

    Dave

    October 7, 2008 at 9:51 am

  27. “It was included in the question in order to incite those who might think the partnership with Canada was actually a done deal, to vote Yes.”

    Again! But that didn’t stop No-voters to understand what the real deal was… Only Yes-voters are dumb, can’t read, vote out of fear or ignorance, are manipulated by politician ( like they were by these papist priests ). No-voters have seen the Light….

    ” In fact a poll demonstrated that 30 % of those who actually voted Yes believed that the partnership deal was done, that even after a yes vote they would remain Canadian and only the powers of Quebec in Canada would be enhanced.”

    And how many No-voters had their own conception and ignorance about what an independant Quebec would be or what they imagined Canada would be if they vote No….?
    Nobody made a poll about that…

    “Canada is one of the few countries in the world that actually has a law on its books providing for the secession of parts of it.”
    Basically doesn’t it says: ” You ca go if we all agree you to do?” Very open marriage indeed!

    In 1995 Europe had a referendum about a constitution Bill project that has several pages long….

    Kriss

    October 7, 2008 at 10:02 am

  28. “Quebecers are able to create the third largest aerospace company in the world, the largest live entertainment troupe on the planet, generate a lively arts and culture scene and yet when it comes time to decide our future, we same Quebecers are burdened by our colonial past to the point of being unable to freely decide our political destiny. Come on! There is a disconnect between the two and I don’t see the sovereignty movement looking to the future.”

    Very good!

    Kriss

    October 7, 2008 at 10:04 am

  29. “And how many No-voters had their own conception and ignorance about what an independant Quebec would be or what they imagined Canada would be if they vote No….?
    Nobody made a poll about that…”

    I tend to agree with this. Plenty of people voted either Oui or Non for the wrong reasons. Happens all the time in democracy.

    Regarding the wording of the question, do you actually think that an adult person can live for a given period of time in Quebec and not know that when the Parti Québécois asks you to vote Oui in a referendum with the word “souverain” in the question, that you’re not voting on indepedence? Come on now.

    Acajack

    October 7, 2008 at 10:15 am

  30. ““That just not true. Support for independence has not weakned in any significant way,” so why then don’t either the Bloc or the PQ call for a referendum ?”

    Because, going back to your original comment about Federalists ‘winning’ two referendums, I believe most indépendentistes are more comfortable losing by 10 000 votes than winning by 10 000 votes. Do you think that if the Oui had passed with 50,4% of the vote the federalists would have accepted your “we won, you lost, suck it up and go away” logic?

    angryfrenchguy

    October 7, 2008 at 10:27 am


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