Read Oh Canada! Oh Quebec!: Requiem for a Divided Country by Mordecai Richler Free Online
Book Title: Oh Canada! Oh Quebec!: Requiem for a Divided Country|
The author of the book: Mordecai Richler
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Loaded: 1446 times
Reader ratings: 4.4
Date of issue: May 5th 1992
ISBN 13: 9780679412465
Format files: PDF
The size of the: 376 KB
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Amusing and well-written (and a quick read, as far as 250-page treatises about Quebec politics go), this book will put you in the center of Quebec's pre-referendum political and social climate. My only complaint is that Richler spends a lot of time discussing antisemitism in Quebec, more than I believe is necessary to get the point across. It makes some sense for the context in which this book was published (e.g. the book's postscript is a long-form response to comments received about an except of the book published in The New Yorker), but someone intent on modernizing the text could probably edit it down a further 50 pages or so.
As for the content of the book, well, I fear that it has only solidified my lingering unease with Quebec as a province. Some of Richler's observations resonated with me, proving that the book's 20-year-old portrayal of Quebecois culture, nationalism, and the anglophone experience in Quebec is not as dated as it should be.
But let's back up a minute. I'm not actually an anglophone. I was born in Montreal to immigrant parents, grew up speaking French at home, and even attended a year of francophone school before we moved to Ottawa in 1992. I remember sitting on my parents' bed in 1995, watching the referendum results roll in, and seeing their relief when the status quo prevailed and the sovereignty issue faded from public view. A few years later, we were back in Montreal looking at houses, though we never did return.
As I relocated around the rest of Canada instead, I often told people that I was from Quebec (in so much as one can be "from" a place when having moved around as much as I have - my longest stint was 13 years in Ottawa, which, being more of a conglomerate of government offices than a real city, never felt much like home). What a disappointment to discover on my eventual return to la belle province that I was an outsider now, too long away to be a pure laine Quebecoise, but no anglophone either, my French too fluent (and my Montrealite prejudices too ingrained) for a move to NDG. Sadly, Richler's observation that Quebec culture is an insular and exclusive club remains true in many ways. One cannot become Quebecois merely by being born in the province, speaking the language fluently, or enjoying poutine.
Anglophones do have an easier time of it these days: no longer the targets of hostility, they get cooed over for signing up for French immersion and babbling "bonjours" in meetings. Shopkeepers are all too happy to switch to English at the slightest hint of an accent (confounding the province's continued sensitivity about losing its language). As for me, speaking French with my Canadian mutt accent, I get grilled about my parents' and my background (questions that would be considered politically incorrect if I were a visible minority) in order to ascertain precisely what type of Quebecer I am. Alas. Twenty years on, Quebec still struggles to define itself.
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Read information about the authorMordecai Richler was a Canadian author, screenwriter and essayist.
His best known works are The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz (1959) and Barney's Version (1997); his 1989 novel Solomon Gursky Was Here was shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize in 1990. He was also well known for the Jacob Two-Two children's stories. .
The son of a Jewish scrap yard dealer, Richler was born in 1931 and raised on St. Urbain Street in the Mile End area of Montreal. He learned Yiddish and English, and graduated from Baron Byng High School. Richler enrolled in Sir George Williams College (now Concordia University) to study English but dropped out before completing his degree.
Years later, Leah Rosenberg, Richler's mother, published an autobiography, The Errand Runner: Memoirs of a Rabbi's Daughter (1981), which discusses Mordecai's birth and upbringing, and the sometime difficult relationship between them.
Richler moved to Paris at age nineteen, intent on following in the footsteps of a previous generation of literary exiles, the so-called Lost Generation of the 1920s, many of whom were from the United States.
Richler returned to Montreal in 1952, working briefly at the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, then moved to London in 1954. He published seven of his ten novels while living in London, as well as considerable journalism.
Worrying "about being so long away from the roots of my discontent", Richler returned to Montreal in 1972. He wrote repeatedly about the Jewish community of Montreal and especially about his former neighborhood, portraying it in multiple novels.
In England, in 1954, Richler married Catherine Boudreau, a French-Canadian divorcee nine years his senior. On the eve of their wedding, he met and was smitten by Florence Mann (née Wood), a young married woman.
Some years later Richler and Mann both divorced and married each other. He adopted her son Daniel. The couple had five children together: Daniel, Jacob, Noah, Martha and Emma. These events inspired his novel Barney's Version.
Richler died of cancer at the age of 70.
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