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
“Duddy Kravitz sits alone in its urbanity, energy, relevance, direction and raw talent.”
“It burgeons with its special talent and vulgar vitality.”
“Richler [is] one of North America’s most powerful novelists.”
“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 SupplementFrom the Trade Paperback edition.