Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Duddy Kravitz, the anti-hero and the Canadian canon

I wrote in my last post that I thought of Larry Weller (from Larry’s Party) was an anti-hero; boy, did I speak too soon. Larry, by comparison to Duddy Kravitz, might as well be Prince Charming. Duddy Kravitz, the title character and prime anti-hero, from Mordecai Richler’s The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz, makes his way through the ups and downs of the Montreal business underworld.

The novel begins with Duddy indirectly causing the death of his teacher’s wife; from there he embarks on a series of business misadventures in an attempt to buy land, because as his grandfather says “a man without land is nothing.” Stepping on, and occasionally helping out, a variety of people including: his taxi driver father, his med-student brother, a sympathetic French girl, an epileptic poet, half of Jewish Montreal, and a smattering of other eccentric characters.

The book is decently funny, although I never laughed out loud, and Richler’s writing style is fine. The book is definitely not my favorite, but I don’t regret reading it. I won’t be running out to read another one of his.

In terms of how it fits into the overall Canadian canon, it brings up a good point that was raised below (in the comments, courtesy of backwoodscanlit)- are there any truly pan-Canada novels?

I tend to think that there aren’t. Books can represent a certain region or group of people, for example Alistair MacLeod and Cape Breton, or Mordecai Richler and Jewish Montreal, but they don’t often span all of Canada. I will keep my eye out for one!

Up next: River Thieves by Michael Crummey


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