The Arty Semite

No Montreal Street for Mordecai Richler

By Michael Kaminer

  • Print
  • Share Share
Courtesy Canadian Jewish Congress National Archives

He won a slew of awards, had his books translated into multiple languages, and captured the soul of Jewish Montreal in novels like “The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz” and “Barney’s Version” — both adapted into big-budget Hollywood productions. But Mordecai Richler doesn’t merit the renaming of a street or other public place in the Plateau neighborhood of his youth, the borough’s administration has decreed.

The proposal is “misguided” and reminiscent of a “Soviet mindset…to be renaming streets after figures,” Mile End councilor Alex Norris told Montreal weekly The Suburban. The paper reported that “Norris didn’t approve of The Suburban’s suggestion to name the area in front of [legendary deli counter] Wilensky’s as ‘Carré Richler,’ because it is an open intersection and it’s ‘not a public square.’”

Norris also rejected Montreal Gazette columnist Bill Brownstein’s suggestion that Fairmount Avenue — a Plateau artery with a colorful history among Montreal Jews — be renamed for the iconic author. For his part, Norris told the Forward he believes a different kind of memorial would be more suitable for Richler, including “a commemorative plaque on the house where he grew up on St. Urbain Street, or a prize for emerging Quebec authors.”

While the Suburban reported that two councilors from the heavily Jewish West End borough presented 2,300 signatures in favor of a renaming, Norris said he hasn’t heard “a single person come forward in the Plateau to express support. We think we’re in tune with the wishes of the community.” Besides, Norris said, the area he represents has “historically been a magnet for literary and artistic figures. Richler’s far from the only great departed artist after whom a street or library has not been named.”

Did the refusal have anything to do with Richler’s pariah status among Quebec nationalists, whom he routinely mocked in publications like The New Yorker? Norris denied it to the Suburban, but the paper wrote that the proposal has infuriated “hardcore nationalist” organizations like the Société Saint-Jean-Baptiste. Its president, Mario Beaulieu, has called Richler an “anti-Quebec racist because he denigrated French Quebecers.”

Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz, Société Saint-Jean-Baptiste, Quebec, Plateau, Mordecai Richler, Montreal Gazette, Montreal, Michael Kaminer, Mile End, Fairmount Avenue, Canada, Bill Brownstein, Barney's Version, The Suburban, Wilensky's Alex Norris

The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.

Find us on Facebook!
  • “I don’t want to say, ‘Oh oh, I’m not Jewish,’ because when you say that, you sound like someone trying to get into a 1950s country club, “and I love the idea of being Jewish." Are you a fan of Seth Meyers?
  • "If you want my advice: more Palestinians, more checkpoints, just more reality." What do you think?
  • Happy birthday Barbra Streisand! Our favorite Funny Girl turns 72 today.
  • Clueless parenting advice from the star of "Clueless."
  • Why won't the city give an answer?
  • BREAKING NEWS: Israel has officially suspended peace talks with the Palestinians.
  • Can you guess what the most boring job in the army is?
  • What the foolish rabbi of Chelm teaches us about Israel and the Palestinian unity deal:
  • Mazel tov to Idina Menzel on making Variety "Power of Women" cover!
  • "How much should I expect him and/or ask him to participate? Is it enough to have one parent reciting the prayers and observing the holidays?" What do you think?
  • New York and Montreal have been at odds for far too long. Stop the bagel wars, sign our bagel peace treaty!
  • Really, can you blame them?
  • “How I Stopped Hating Women of the Wall and Started Talking to My Mother.” Will you see it?
  • Taglit-Birthright Israel is redefining who they consider "Jewish" after a 17% drop in registration from 2011-2013. Is the "propaganda tag" keeping young people away?
  • Happy birthday William Shakespeare! Turns out, the Bard knew quite a bit about Jews.
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?

We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.