Kevin McGoogan reviews Reinhold Kramer’s Mordecai Richler: Leaving St. Urbain in The Globe and Mail:
Reinhold Kramer, an English professor at Brandon University, has scoured the Richler archive at the University of Calgary. He has made excellent, almost invasive use of letters, notes and two unpublished manuscripts – a 1950s novel called The Rotten People and a 1970s memoir, Back to Ibiza – to show how Richler drew on his own life in creating his fiction.
By adding a few interviews with family members, and drawing on an oral biography by Globe and Mail writer Michael Posner and a scholarly study by Victor Ramraj, Kramer has produced a meticulous, prodigiously detailed biography. As the subtitle suggests, it highlights the writer’s lifelong engagement with Orthodox Judaism and his triumphant emergence as a secular humanist.
Those who followed Richler closely, chuckling at his antics, savouring his victories, will enjoy reliving old favourite moments. Yes, yes, let’s go again to the movie premiere of Duddy Kravitz, when the wife of the late Samuel Bronfman congratulated Richler from on high: “You’ve come a long way for a St. Urbain Street boy.” And the author responded: “And you’ve come a long way for a bootlegger’s wife.”