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The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz [Paperback]

Mordecai Richler
3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (20 customer reviews)

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Book Description

April 10 2001 0771075170 978-0771075179 1
The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz is the novel that established Mordecai Richler as one of the world’s best comic writers. Growing up in the heart of Montreal’s Jewish ghetto, Duddy Kravitz is obsessed with his grandfather’s saying, “A man without land is nothing.” In his relentless pursuit of property and his drive to become a somebody, he will wheel and deal, he will swindle and forge, he will even try making movies. And in spite of the setbacks he suffers, the sacrifices he must make along the way, Duddy never loses faith that his dream is worth the price he must pay. This blistering satire traces the eventful coming-of-age of a cynical dreamer. Amoral, inventive, ruthless, and scheming, Duddy Kravitz is one of the most magnetic anti-heroes in literature, a man who learns the hard way that dreams are never exactly what they seem, even when they do come true.

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The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz is a novel about costs. How much will Duddy sacrifice to get what he wants? "Born with a rusty spoon in his mouth," Duddy is a hustler and a schemer, scrambling to acquire the idyllic lakefront property he thinks will raise him out of the Jewish ghetto of post-war Montreal, where "the boys grew up dirty and sad, spiky also, like grass beside the railroad tracks." In the hilarious and tragic progress of his career, Duddy--along with everyone around him--discovers how much he will pay for material success.

Duddy's Uncle Benjy sums him up as "two people": "The scheming little bastard I saw so easily and the fine intelligent boy underneath that your grandfather, bless him, saw." Simcha, the stern but adoring immigrant grandfather, becomes the locus for Duddy's battle with ends and means. An embodiment of old-world values, Simcha impresses upon Duddy the maxim, "A man without land is nobody," never anticipating the depths (lying, forgery, theft, manipulation) to which Duddy will stoop to acquire the resort land to launch his empire. Breaking Simcha's heart with his unscrupulous victory, Duddy loses the respect, and--at least emotionally--the life he wanted: "a boy can be two, three, four potential people, but a man is only one. He murders the others."

Duddy Kravitz is the novel that moved Mordecai Richler into the stable of major 20th-century novelists, and it did so at a time (1959) when "world famous" and "Canadian novelist" were mutually exclusive terms. Like so many of the anti-heroes of Richler's contemporaries John Updike and Philip Roth, Duddy is neither likeable nor forgettable. Sadly, or perhaps thankfully, Duddy is all too human. --Darryl Whetter --This text refers to the Mass Market Paperback edition.


“Duddy Kravitz sits alone in its urbanity, energy, relevance, direction and raw talent.”
Toronto Star

“It burgeons with its special talent and vulgar vitality.”
Chicago Tribune

“Richler [is] one of North America’s most powerful novelists.”
Washington Times

“Richler has been praised highly for his clear-eyed vision and his realistic style. This novel will confirm that estimate… the total effect is brash and blatant as a sports car rally – and as suggestive of power.”
New York Times Book Review

“There can be no doubt of [Richler’s] prodigal talent.”
Times Literary Supplement

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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars duddy-the little nietzsche boy! July 18 2004
richler's work is, though spiced with ample dose of humour, is a painful portrayal of the ruthless nature of human ambitions. the young jewish,motherless urchin, duddy has only one goal before him, to emulate 'jerry dingleman'-the boywonder of st.urbain, montreal.duddy takes a materialist interpretation of his zeyda's profound words of wisdom, "a man without land is nobody.' this fires duddy, to embark on scheme after scheme, to pursue his goal of possessing a lake and the land surrounding it. for that he is shameless enough to forge the signature of epileptic friend and to crush the love of yvette, the all-giving french-canadian girl friend. duddy doesn't believe in gew-gentile relationship either, after seeing how his doctor-brother was harrassed and hounded by the gentile circle. he is the jewish-avtar of nietzschen neo-man , one who is devoid of feelings like love and shame. duddy hardly bothers about the fate of ladders which he use to climb. unfortunately,for him, the end is important ; not human relationships, outside his family.
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4.0 out of 5 stars hilarious... but not funny! Sept. 26 2001
In a (1970) television interview Richler said that his best writing was the stuff that flowed out from him and did not require too much revision or re-writing. I think that a lot of that sort of "one-take" inspiration must have found its way into this fourth novel of his. As I read it, there was one word that kept recurring in my thoughts... "raw"! I don't think Richler is the type who had much use for a thesaurus in his study, and I say that in praise of his ability as a writer. Everything is just right up front and center with him, nothing embellished or re-written for the sake of eloquence. The result is sometimes brash, often vulgar... but all the while, it is very REAL and necessary to explain the impetuous character of Duddy. Very well written. Great bantering dialogue. Count how many times Richler puts the word "but" at the END of a sentence. It's bizarre.
This is a story of ambition run amok! A precocious upstart trying to satiate his obsessive perception of success. Duddy's particular obsession is this phrase that "a man without land is nobody!" Richler creates a fascinating (realistic, albeit despicable) character here in Duddy. There were a few redeeming moments, but most of the time I just wanted to strangle Duddy... in fact, my feelings for Duddy alternated between wanting to strangle him and then (next page) laugh at him. He's such a shyster! Often this story is hilarious, but it's really not funny. I see Duddy as a tragic figure. He consistently abuses the two people (Yvette and Virgil) who are trying the hardest to help him realize his dreams. Ultimately, Duddy has to face the fact that perhaps the only thing legendary about him are the stories that his father Max is already inventing down at Lou's Bagel and Lox Bar.
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I read this book twice.Once in high school,where we "dissected" the book as English teachers do with their students, and the second time as a personal read to get more of a feeling to it. True,it does paint a realistic portrayal of Jewish life in Montreal,and the language isn't that hard except for the occasional yiddish thrown in. Basically, we are rooting for an "anti-hero" throughout the novel, a clumsy suppressed 19 year old. Duddy's character had his flaws as we humans do but there was something about the book which I did not like. Was it the style of the prose or the odd setting..I am not sure which. The only thing which I got out of the book was my likeness for the hilarious character of Friar,the Film director. I have no idea why this book went on to get critical acclaim. Mr.Richler has written much much better books like "The Acrobats" or "Barney's Vision" which I am currently reading. I guess I would recommend the book, if you can't find something better or worthwhile to read...otherwise..leave it alone. It's not worth the effort.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Memorable and Inspiring for all the wrong reasons March 11 1999
By A Customer
OK here's the deal. Duddy is not a good guy but the reader loves him because he is a human being and if he turns out sour and crazy it is only becasue those more fortunate than he have taken advantage of him. Duddy responds to the cards that society hands out by playing them as best he can. Richler is an incredible writer. His characters and dialogue have so much richness, so much reality. This is a book about Montreal and all the politics and culture-clash that occur between its upper-class Jews and Gentile and the lower class Jews and Gentiles. The old Jews and the young Jews, the college kids and the working kids. The French canadians and the anglo-phones, etc. There are very few women in this book, but Duddy has a very small field of vision when it comes to women, so the POV is true to the character. I love this book.
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4.0 out of 5 stars ..., that's all the band could play... Jan. 28 1999
By A Customer
I enjoyed this book.

While the first two or three chapters are not really needed in the novel, I found the character of Duddy Kravitz repulsive but strangely satisfying as a character. Cliched my ass. Okay, Max, Jerry Dingleman and Lennie are cliched, but you also get Virgil the epileptic, John Friar the Americommunist filmmaker, Yvette the "Girl Friday" who holds Duddy's land for him, and of course, you have the anti-Semitic Scot Mr. Macpherson. Sure it may sound cliched, but this was written 40 years ago. Cliches have come from this line of writing.
I may be a masochist but it's FUUUN to see Kravitz screw and be screwed. And Richler knows how to write a book. In my opinion, it may be nothing new, but at least it's nothing bad.....
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Most recent customer reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars A Little bit long to read but it's worth it ...
A Little bit long to read but it's worth it!!! We definitely want to know what will happen with Duddy Kratvitz.
Published 1 month ago by Joannie Charette
2.0 out of 5 stars Two Stars
Didn't like the novel at all but it worked out well as my textbook for class.
Published 3 months ago by Kaylee Verkruisen
1.0 out of 5 stars One-Time Read
The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz by Mordecai Richler was on my reading list for school last year. Read more
Published 12 months ago by Sam Couture Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Great book
A great read, his life is like a monopoly! Read and enjoy this book as it takes you back to a really cool era in Canadian living.
Published on Aug. 19 2012 by Virushan
4.0 out of 5 stars Does End Justify Means?
Richler's "The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz" is a masterpiece and another one of his classics. It fashions the protagonist, Duddy, as a young Jew who has his mind set on a... Read more
Published on Nov. 3 2011 by Bassim Zantout
4.0 out of 5 stars a sad/funny look at an over-achieving flim-flam man (boy)
Mordecai Richler is certainly one of Canada's best novelists. His caustic sense of humour, his self-deprecating look at life, and his sometimes thinly disguised autobiographical... Read more
Published on Dec 12 2002 by lazza
3.0 out of 5 stars Too real or too fake?
Some people never learn, this is a story of one of them. Some may find this books a masterpiece, a child of a genious, but in my personal opinion its "rawness", its fake reality... Read more
Published on Oct. 15 2002 by A. Petrov
5.0 out of 5 stars By one of our great Canadian writers
It was my New Years Resolution to read more "literature" especially by Canadian authors. I am ashamed to say that I have managed to get this far through life without... Read more
Published on March 6 2002 by Amazon Customer
5.0 out of 5 stars A great period story, gutsy, irreverent, self-exposing.
Duddy Kravitz grew up on the wrong side of town to most Montrealers. His neighbourhood was poor, but not abject. Read more
Published on Sept. 19 2001
4.0 out of 5 stars An Exilerating Novel
This book is fast paced, vulgar, funny, and human. The world of Duddy Kravitz--an extraordinary Jewish teenager in Montreal in the 1940's--may sound very far removed from our... Read more
Published on June 30 2000 by David Earl Bruhn
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