Mordecai Richler’s achievements over the course of his writing career were considerable. He was awarded both a John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation Fellowship in creative writing and a Canada Council Senior Arts Fellowship. His literary awards include the President’s Medal for Nonfiction from the University of Western Ontario (1959), a humor prize from the Paris Review (1967), two Governor-General’s Awards for Fiction (1969 and 1972), the London Jewish Chronicle literature award (1972), a Book of the Year for Children Award from the Canadian Library Association and a Ruth Schwartz Children’s Book Award (both 1976), an H. H. Wingate award for fiction from the London Jewish Chronicle (1981), a Commonwealth Writers Prize (1990), the Giller Prize (1997), a Hugh MacLanna Prize, and the Stephen Leacock Prize (both 1998). The screenplay based on his novel The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz (1959) earned him a Screenwriters Guild of America Award in 1974; the film itself garnered a Golden Bear Award at the Berlin Film Festival in 1974.
After his return to Canada in 1972, after twenty years in England and continental Europe, his journalistic writing on Canada, widely published both in Canada and in the United States, has chronicled his crotchety love and growing sadness for the fate of Canada, his home and native land. His subjective, often savagely funny and derisive depictions of Canadian political and cultural life have made Americans in particular aware of a Canada they had never known or contemplated: his adroit skewering of Canadian pretensions has both entertained and enraged his Canadian readers. His later essays, which appeared regularly in major American and Canadian periodicals, concentrated with increasing vitriol on Quebec’s nationalist aspirations.
Perhaps his major achievement was the group of fictional works that explores so thoroughly and captures so vividly the lives and fractious spirit of Jewish-Canadian immigrants in a Montreal community now largely dispersed. As Richler said, “That was my time and my place, and I have elected myself to get it exactly right.”