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!
  • A Ukrainian rabbi says he thinks the leaflets ordering Jews in restive Donetsk to 'register' were a hoax. But the disturbing story still won't die.
  • Some snacks to help you get through the second half of Passover.
  • You wouldn't think that a Soviet-Jewish immigrant would find much in common with Gabriel Garcia Marquez. But the famed novelist once helped one man find his first love. http://jd.fo/f3JiS
  • Can you relate?
  • The Forverts' "Bintel Brief" advice column ran for more than 65 years. Now it's getting a second life — as a cartoon.
  • Half of this Hillel's members believe Jesus was the Messiah.
  • Vinyl isn't just for hipsters and hippies. Israeli photographer Eilan Paz documents the most astonishing record collections from around the world:http://jd.fo/g3IyM
  • Could Spider-Man be Jewish? Andrew Garfield thinks so.
  • Most tasteless video ever? A new video shows Jesus Christ dying at Auschwitz.
  • "It’s the smell that hits me first — musty, almost sweet, emanating from the green felt that cradles each piece of silver cutlery in its own place." Only one week left to submit! Tell us the story of your family's Jewish heirloom.
  • Mazel tov to Chelsea Clinton and Marc Mezvinsky!
  • If it's true, it's pretty terrifying news.
  • “My mom went to cook at the White House and all I got was this tiny piece of leftover raspberry ganache."
  • Planning on catching "Fading Gigolo" this weekend? Read our review.
  • 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.