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I threw the book across the room when I finished. My favourite thing about Richler is that he expands my practical vocabulary thanks to him, I can exhort friends to Be a mensch , I can call my girlfriend a shiksa , I can refer to anyone other than myself as you white people It s great And I m not even Jewish Another thing that s fun about Richler, which I think is also the reason why his books can be found on my parents shelves Canadian Jewish society seems pretty Easterneuropean The meddling, the gossiping, the intellectuocultural ambitionizing these all strike me as perfectly Polish traits Yet another thing that endears me to Richler is that his characters are hilariously politically incorrect, displaying an equal opportunity combination of antisemitism and antigoyism what s the word for that and condescension towards frenchcanadians and mistrust of the dreaded and revered white anglo saxon protestants Caveats for those not yet familiar with Richler he s over the top The gags never stop coming, except to allow megadramatic moments that will leave you i.e left me exasperated at the bad behaviour of some character usually Duddy I had like 17 heart attacks while reading this book But in the end, Richler doesn t oversimplify Duddy s neither good nor bad, he s complicated I guess that s why the book nerd establishment has accepted Richler into the pantheon or whatever of literary what have you, despite his crass proclivities towards slapstick and hollywood script friendly drama Mazel tov Duddy Kravitz is a self centered sneak, a thief, a con artist, a scheister and thoroughly detestable character but I love him A Jewish kid growing up in Montreal during world war two, in a motherless family and mostly left to his own devices, Duddy Kravitz is basically a decent human being, deep down inside, somewhere I m sure there s a modicum of decency Duddy s grandfather once tells him that a man without land is nobody , Duddy takes this to heart and when he finds the property of his dreams in the Laurentian Mountains this becomes Duddy s sole mission in life In order to gain possession of this land, Duddy first tries working legitimately then begs, cheats, steals and screws over just about everyone in his life, even those that should have left him long ago Duddy also comes up with several, perhaps not entirely legitimate schemes, some successful than others but all with a certain level of ingeniousness to them Duddy shows himself to be industrious and determined in the face of adversity Duddy faces anti Semitism, and the scorn of wealthy, educated peers and perserveres Just when Duddy begins to redeem himself in the reader s eyes, showing tenderness or decency particularly with his family and very close friends he will stoop lower still to realize his dream Somehow, through all of this, Duddy still remains a loveable character I m inclined to think that this has nothing to do with Duddy and everything to do with Richler Duddy s entrepreneurial ventures are hilarious, as is much of Duddy s dialogue throughout Brilliantly written characters, darkly comedic one has to wonder if this is actually fiction The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz reads like a memoir than a fictional account, a coming of age story for a Jewish con artist from Montreal I highly recommend it I will certainly read of Richler s work, I m only sorry I waited so long.
The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz is a kind of bildungsroman for an anti hero We first meet Duddy through his Scottish history teacher, the tired and broken Mr MacPherson, who earns Duddy s enmity when he insults Duddy s father and quickly finds out that he has crossed the wrong boy From the first, Mordecai Richler establishes that Duddy is a bully and prone to holding a grudge Indeed, Duddy s long memory figures prominently in a novel that is, as its title implies, his personal journey into adulthood.One of the best tricks that Richler pulls off is managing to make a short span of time feel like over a decade has passed The story takes place before Duddy reaches twenty one then the age of majority in Quebec , with the bulk of it happening when he is around eighteen or nineteen years old Owing to the speed with which Duddy wheels and deals, however, it feels like years pass The moment Duddy graduates from school and is unleashed upon the unsuspecting Montreal landscape he never rests Always, his grandfather s assertion that a man without land is nothing nips at him, spurring Duddy onwards in the pursuit of picturesque farmland around Lac Saint Pierre.The novel succeeds or fails based on one s feelings about Duddy It s easy to love him he is relentless, almost a force of nature When he is good, when he is helpful and kind to those around him, he is like nothing else He is clever to the point of cunning, and when he s with his father or even his grandfather, there is a tenderness to him a fierce desire to make his family proud Uncle Benjy recognizes this when he later confers upon Duddy the title of head of the family Unlike the other Kravitz men, Duddy is an operator For all his father s tall tales about friendship with the enigmatic Boy Wonder, it s Duddy who gets things done.It s easy to hate him he is relentless to the point of self destruction When desperate and oh, how often he gets desperate he will lash out and make deals no matter what the cost, breaking them later if he comes to regret or feel chained by them At times it almost feels like Duddy cares about nobody other than himself this is untrue, manifestly, because he cares about his family but he is not someone who gets close to others The way his mistreats Yvette, his sometime lover whom he calls his girl Friday , is the most egregious example of Duddy s ability to hurt those close to him.Yvette enters the story as something less than a girlfriend of Duddy s They grow close during his summer at a hotel in St Agathe, where Yvette hails from She eventually acts as a secretary and middleman for Duddy s dealing with a notary through whom he begins to buy up the land around Lac Saint Pierre Yvette is older and able to hold title to land, so the land is actually in her name for most of the book However, Duddy and Yvette s relationship is anything but straightforward Duddy routinely pursues other women, and other men seem to enter Yvette s orbit but it s not always clear what her relationship with them is Virgil later acts as a third body in this problem, his cohabitation with the two of them introducing a new dynamic that eventually results in Yvette s retreat back to St Agathe.The novel follows a rise then fall pattern standard for these kinds of coming of age stories Nevertheless, the ending is quite interesting Duddy is poised between two, seeming mutually exclusive paths He can choose kindness, goodness, a life with Yvette and a conscience free of guilt but at the cost of that land Or he can allow his ruthless pursuit of the land to trump all other concerns but it means saying goodbye to Yvette forever, and likely making enemies along the way Richler pleads with Duddy to take the former course through the voice of Duddy s departed Uncle Benjy in a letter that laments how the harshness of the world often makes us harsh in turn And for a short time, it feels like Duddy will actually manage to shake off this obsession with land for a time.In the end, Duddy brings his family to see the lake and all the land he now owns He has burnt a lot of bridges in the process, and the victory is bittersweet His grandfather, the man whose advice started this all and to whom Duddy promised some land for a farm, is upset by the price of all this Duddy suddenly finds his triumph now tastes of ashes But he is not to be beaten so easily, and the end of the novel implies that Duddy is committed to being a smooth operator and a big player in the community of Montreal Jewish businessmen Whether this makes him happy or not is not question Richler answers.The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz is a compact and careful story with a lot to recommend about it The description on the back of my edition rightly pegs Duddy as one of the most magnetic anti heroes in Canadian fiction This is the first novel I ve read from Mordecai Richler, and already I understand why he has received such acclaim Although the story is deeply connected with the topical concerns of that era the integration of Jews into a larger, predominantly francophone Montreal the threat of Communism and the McCarthyism of the United States the nascent movie production business it still feels timeless, and it helped me understand how people who grew up in an area like Duddy s might have felt and struggled back then You can t ask for much than that. This was a reread, slowly, over the last month or so I am not sure what to say about it I can t say it s my absolutely favourite Mordecai Richler Solomon Gursky Was Here is probably that However, it s certainly up there as an accomplishment, if not exactly a pleasure Duddy is one of Richler s great anti heroes, and because he is so thoroughly that, it makes him difficult to write about.Note The rest of this review has been withdrawn due to the changes in Goodreads policy and enforcement You can read why I came to this decision here.In the meantime, you can read the entire review at Smorgasbook In The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz, Mordecai Richler tells the tale of Duddy a young Jew from a poor, 1940s Montreal St Urbain Street neighbourhood Duddy is a complicated character He has a rough and tumble childhood, acts out in school, and becomes a n er do well and sort of gang leader, who few expect to succeed, unlike his gifted older brother, Lennie Duddy doesn t receive the same love and affection from his father or wealthy uncle that Lennie receives, and only his grandfather, Simcha, seems to believe in him One day, Simcha tells Duddy that a man without land is nobody, and this sparks Duddy s successive materialistic drive after this point in the novel, Duddy goes from being a trouble maker, to being a single minded young man on a mission, who will do almost whatever it takes to get himself a nice piece of land and become a somebody Part of Duddy s complexity lies in the fact that, while he is materialistically motivated, he also plans to make his grandfather proud and happy by giving him his own portion of the land and a farm to spend his remaining days on meanwhile, Duddy is also seeking love pride attention from his father and uncle, and he goes out of his way to help his family, especially his much lauded brother Lennie who he saves from self destruction Duddy is also racked with guilt through blaming himself for terrible events which befall one of his school teachers, and this torment worms a course through his ensuing life And the poor kid has no mother and grows up in a rough neighbourhood basically Duddy is a victim On the other hand, Duddy swindles, lies, cheats, steals, and tramples others who have what he wants, oppose him, or even love him such as his secretary love interest doormat Yvette, or young Mr Virgil, a gullible epileptic associate of Duddy s Duddy takes the high ground by professing to achieve fame all by himself, but while he does, spitefully, deny any financial support from his wealthy uncle, he also takes for granted all the help and support some, such as Yvette, lavish on him In the end, Duddy gets what he wants, and perhaps what he deserves, and we are taught that greatness does not come without a cost.Here s an important quote from the story on Duddy s complexity and struggle page 279 of my mass market 1959 edition A letter from Duddy s uncle Benjy There s to you than money lust, Duddy, but I m afraid for you You re two people, that s why The scheming little bastard I saw so easily and the fine, intelligent boy underneath that your grandfather, bless him, saw But you re coming of age soon and you ll have to choose A boy can be two, three, four potential people, but a man is only one He murders the others. Bonus Plot elementBenjy and Duddy feel and later see parts of themselves in each other and are thus repelled like magnets of the same polarity until it is too lateRichler tells a great story Apprenticeship pulls you into the 1940s Jewish Montreal world and takes you along on the Duddy train to success You can almost hear the nasally stereotyped voices of some of Duddy s clients, feel the anti Semitism or Jewish anti Gentile sentiment, or taste the smoked meat One such descriptive scene, a favourite of mine, mentions bare chested bakers wiping their sweaty armpits with unbaked bread Now that s getting into the nitty gritty of it all Richler lets you enjoy the dirt, the drama, the pathos, the love and loss and drive which propel this novel and keep you turning pages That s not to say Kravitz is perfect, however While Richler builds a fine world, is a master of dramatic scenes, and tells a great tale, his writing is rarely beautiful or poetic In addition, I sometimes find his technical style infuriating He has a tendency to introduce and drop characters, change scenes, or switch to completely different narrators multiple times in the span of one page This is perhaps compounded by the fact that my edition has no obvious time breaks or separation between lines of events It s just blah blah blah character dies suddenly blah blah blah now we re in New York blah blah now there s a new character blah blah Moreover, occasionally I find myself completely confused by Richler s dialogue and have no idea what is going on in the story in these cases it comes off as splotches of vomited words marring the otherwise appropriately scuffed tiles of written fluidity Additionally, it is just plain hard to sympathize with Duddy half the time, and hundreds of pages of him trying to get stuff becomes a bore to read Finally, I find many elements of Kravitz very hard to swallow from a realistic point of view For example, what are the odds of a young boy meeting and then working with an award winning, internationally renowned movie director While I understand that those with great ambition can do great things and attract other great people, at best this character joins Duddy too early in his rise to power for me to swallow it Characters such as this Mr Friar seem to be introduced for artistic purposes for telling a good yarn and much less for telling a believable, possibly biographical tale As to this latter complaint, I think its OK in the end I don t mind sacrificing a bit of realism to digest a great story, and you probably won t either True Rating 4.3 Stars An entertaining coming of age, North American immigrant tale, with a well drawn, lovably roguish, morally wobbly protagonist I enjoyed it, yet it felt instantly familiar, y know Maybe it s the Saul Bellow territoryyoung man on the make, etc cast of spivs and strivers the smell of fried liver Or even Phillip Roth or Updike I slip into the same mode I love them It s something that often happens when I read north American novels of the fifties and sixties everything goes Instagram filter and is instantly nostalgic and touching in a way that is probably not even intended A bit like how I imagine someone reading about London who s never been there will struggle not to see fog and wrought iron lampposts So hard not to like really. &Free Epub ☚ The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz ↵ From Mordecai Richler, One Of Our Greatest Satirists, Comes One Of Literature S Most Delightful Characters, Duddy Kravitz In A Novel That Belongs In The Pantheon Of Seminal Twentieth Century Books Duddy The Third Generation Of A Jewish Immigrant Family In Montreal Is Combative, Amoral, Scheming, A Liar, And Totally Hilarious From His Street Days Tormenting Teachers At The Jewish Academy To His Time Hustling Four Jobs At Once In A Grand Plan To Be Somebody, Duddy Learns About Living And The Lesson Is An Outrageous Roller Coaster Ride Through The Human Comedy As Richler Turns His Blistering Commentary On Love, Money, And Politics, The Apprenticeship Of Duddy Kravitz Becomes A Lesson For Us Allin Laughter And In Life My first Mordecai Richler read but certainly not my last Really snappy prose and dialogue, and a very enthralling plot Despite being written nearly 60 years ago, the character of Duddy Kravitz feels like he would fit right into a modern prestige dramas on HBO, and his whole arc is very satisfying Really interesting to get some historical takes on what Montreal was like in the early 50s as well. A man without land indeed,