Critical Context (Masterplots II: American Fiction Series)

(Masterpieces of American Fiction)

Mordecai Richler is one of Canada’s most prominent writers. In addition to novels, he has written literary and social criticism, essays, screenplays, and some wonderfully humorous children’s books. With the publication of his first novel, The Acrobats (1954), at age twenty-two, he was hailed as a promising new talent. The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz was viewed as the fulfillment of that promise. While some critics find it too episodic, others consider it one of the finest Canadian novels of the twentieth century. Both a social satire and a Bildungsroman, it re-creates the multiethnic world of post-World War II Montreal. Many of the characters in the novel, including Duddy, reappear in a later novel, St. Urbain’s Horsemen (1971). Both of these, like most of Richler’s novels, are firmly rooted in his Jewish Canadian background. Throughout his writings, Richler gives a devastatingly accurate portrayal of that world. Although he has been accused of both anti-Semitism and anti-Canadianism, his unflinching portraits are filled with dark humor and rich characterizations. In The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz, Richler re-creates Montreal at the middle of the twentieth century, resplendent in all its virtues and vices.