Common Sense Comes to Town!

Common sense is the most fairly distributed thing in the world, for each one thinks he is so well-endowed with it that even those who are hardest to satisfy in all other matters are not in the habit of desiring more of it than they already have. (Descartes)

The Horseman’s Forgotten Ghost

Posted on | July 3, 2011 | No Comments

The flags should be at half-mast today, on Montreal’s St.Urbain Street. They won’t be, of course – it would be too ostentatious a commemoration of the death of its most illustrious resident, of its most controversial as well. Nevertheless let us pay homage to Mordecai Richler, who died ten years ago on this day.

I still recall the first novel of this author which I had the good fortune to read, The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz. Of the unspoken feeling of treason I felt as a francophone Quebecois, more or less “pure laine”, as I found intense and sarcastic delight from Richler’s fast-paced and witty lines, even though he was hated by my compatriots. I remember the blazing rhythm, the unstoppable life force of the characters. This was 8 or 9 years ago, and the writer had already left this world.

Not too concerned about chronology, I jumped next to Barney’s Version. The way in which Richler wove the main’s character degenerative disease into syntax and grammar itself had impressed me enormously. This was a writer with perfect mastery over his art and the novel was of unparalleled integrity.

I remember the numerous bursts of laughter reading St.Urbain’s Horseman. The depiction of alleyways which have not really changed in 2011; the harsh caricature of a nation, of pre-war Québécois who indeed had not yet discovered a sense of pride (and all the excesses of pride as well).

However I never bothered reading his more polemical essays. On the one hand I did not want to spoil the memory I have of his brilliant prose and, on the other hand, everyone seems to agree that they are not really worth it, in the end.

The author will soon have a star on the Canadian Walk of Fame. 10 years later, not much as been done in Montreal to mark the passing of this exceptional author. The city plans to name an old and decrepit gazebo on Mount Royal in his honour. Between you and me, we have renamed streets to the memory of men whose contribution was much less significant.

In Barney’s words : “Shit, shit, shit!”

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