Shana Rosenblatt Mauer

Aug 12, 2023

Mordecai Richler's Imperfect Search for Moral Values

McGill-Queen's University Press 2022

From his debut as a novelist, Mordecai Richler challenged, provoked, enraged, entertained, and surprised readers. Criticizing him for his portrayals of Canada and accusing him of being anti-Jewish, many found his mix of progressive sympathies and illiberal satire confounding but hard to ignore. His novels were too engaging: their subjects crackled with contemporary relevance, and their humour was irresistible. Mordecai Richler's Imperfect Search for Moral Values (McGill-Queen's UP, 2022) is an investigation into Richler's novels and the conflicting reactions they provoked. 

Taking into consideration the most prevalent and voluble responses to his novels, Shana Mauer examines the texts themselves and assesses how they stand up to these reactions. She asks whether the backlash was justified, and whether these novels savaged Canada, maligned the Jewish community, disparaged women, mocked gays, and generally despaired of modern life and contemporary culture. As the first study of Richler's entire corpus, this book considers these issues in the context of a long career - one as consistent as it was varied - in which an ideological discourse often, but not always, evolved. Turning away from impressions, assumptions, and generalizations, many informed by Richler's non-fiction and on-record comments, Mauer focuses instead on the substance of the novels themselves, finding there a restless search for lasting moral value. 

Mordecai Richler's Imperfect Search for Moral Values explores the construction of literary texts that have made Richler one of the most intriguing and successful modern writers, as well as an essential voice in Canadian and Jewish literature in the second half of the twentieth century.

Listen to more episodes on:

Your Host

Ari Barbalat

Ari Barbalat holds a PhD in International Relations from the University of California in Los Angeles. He lives in Toronto with his family.

Learn More

Also Hosted By Ari Barbalat