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!
  • What do you think of Wonder Woman's new look?
  • "She said that Ruven Barkan, a Conservative rabbi, came into her classroom, closed the door and turned out the lights. He asked the class of fourth graders to lie on the floor and relax their bodies. Then, he asked them to pray for abused children." Read Paul Berger's compelling story about a #Savannah community in turmoil:
  • “Everything around me turns orange, then a second of silence, then a bomb goes off!" First installment of Walid Abuzaid’s account of the war in #Gaza:
  • Is boredom un-Jewish?
  • Let's face it: there's really only one Katz's Delicatessen.
  • "Dear Diaspora Jews, I’m sorry to break it to you, but you can’t have it both ways. You can’t insist that every Jew is intrinsically part of the Israeli state and that Jews are also intrinsically separate from, and therefore not responsible for, the actions of the Israeli state." Do you agree?
  • Are Michelangelo's paintings anti-Semitic? Meet the Jews of the Sistine Chapel:
  • What does the Israel-Hamas war look like through Haredi eyes?
  • Was Israel really shocked to find there are networks of tunnels under Gaza?
  • “Going to Berlin, I had a sense of something waiting there for me. I was searching for something and felt I could unlock it by walking the streets where my grandfather walked and where my father grew up.”
  • How can 3 contradictory theories of Yiddish co-exist? Share this with Yiddish lovers!
  • "We must answer truthfully: Has a drop of all this bloodshed really helped bring us to a better place?”
  • "There are two roads. We have repeatedly taken the one more traveled, and that has made all the difference." Dahlia Scheindlin looks at the roots of Israel's conflict with Gaza.
  • Shalom, Cooperstown! Cooperstown Jewish mayor Jeff Katz and Jeff Idelson, director of the National Baseball Hall of Fame, work together to oversee induction weekend.
  • A boost for morale, if not morals.
  • 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.