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The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz [Mass Market Paperback]

Mordecai Richler , David Carpenter
3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (19 customer reviews)
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Book Description

Nov. 1 1989 New Canadian library
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.

From the Trade Paperback edition.

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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


“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

From the Trade Paperback edition.

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First Sentence
What with his wife so ill these past few weeks and the prospect of three more days of teaching before the weekend break, Mr MacPherson felt unusually glum. Read the first page
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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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2.0 out of 5 stars Two Stars July 14 2014
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Didn't like the novel at all but it worked out well as my textbook for class.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Great book Aug. 19 2012
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
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.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
By lazza
Format:Mass Market Paperback
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 stories are always memorable. Imagine Joseph (Catch-22) Heller being from Montreal and you have Mordecai Richler.
Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz is one of Richler's earlier and better known (..thanks to the 1970s film adaptation) works. The story centers around a young Jewish teenager (Duddy), a very abrasive and aggressive boy, striving to make money in order to buy land (thinking, like his grandpa, that if you don't own land you ain't nuttin'). So Duddy gets into a strange, and hilarious, film-making business. His pushy and obnoxious behaviour both appalls and endears everyone he meets; I too was appalled and endeared. By the end of the book I felt I knew (but didn't like) Duddy.
While I did enjoy 'Duddy Kravitz' I have to say it certainly isn't Richler's best effort. I suggest Barney's Version, written some 30 years later, which demonstrates the author's abilities at his peak.
Bottom line: an endearing story of a lost youth in Montreal circa 1950. Fondly memorable.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Does End Justify Means? Nov. 3 2011
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 single piece of wisdom, passed on to him by his paternal grandfather, that a "man without land is nobody". This statement constitutes a mantra or a leitmotif throughout the novel. It hardly, therefore, an overstatement if one were to maintain that this grandfatherly wisdom defines Duddy's life. His near obsession with owning a land forces Duddy to resort to underhanded acts that in his mind would bring him nearer to realizing his dream and which they actually do so ultimately.

Some of the things he has done to amass the money to pay for the purchase of the estates were reprehensible but the last act shows to what lows he can stoop just to achieve the dream of his life. Without giving too much away, the last act undoubtedly was not only immoral and illegal, but lacked human sympathy and consideration as well. Duddy is described in a blob at the back of the edition that I own as an "antihero", which in many ways he is. However, I would say that what describes Duddy best is what his father, Max, said in charaterizing his son: "He thrives on adversity". That is exactly what he does.

In my view, the novel carries a parallel, or a sub, narrative. In an indirect way the novel tells the history of the Jewish people. Since they went into the diaspora, many centuries ago, the Jews yearned for a homeland to which they can belong and from which they can derive their identity. In other words, the need to have a geographical space that they would call the fatherland, or motherland, does in a very signifcant way define the history of the Jews. Duddy Kravitz symbolizes that Jewish yearning.
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5.0 out of 5 stars By one of our great Canadian writers March 6 2002
Format:Mass Market Paperback
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 reading anything by this someone who is widely regarded as one of Canada's greatest man of letters.
This is Richler's cautionary tale about the evils of greed and unrestrained ambition. This topic has been explored by a countless other writers but seldom with as much skill as that displayed by Mr. Richler.
The main character is both repugnant and fascinating to watch. I can't recommend this enough.
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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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