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The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz Mass Market Paperback – Nov 1 1989

3.9 out of 5 stars 25 customer reviews

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Product Details

  • Mass Market Paperback: 328 pages
  • Publisher: New Canadian Library; 1 edition (Nov. 1 1989)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 077109972X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0771099724
  • Product Dimensions: 10.8 x 2.3 x 17.8 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 181 g
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars 25 customer reviews
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #222,721 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Product Description

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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

Review

“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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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
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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Format: Paperback
If you're looking for overlapping plots and literary pyrotechnics, you might want to try Richler's fiction after 1980 (i.e. Joshua Then and Now, Solomon Gursky Was Here, and Barney's Version), but for humour and a comparatively linear story, you can't do better than Duddy Kravitz, the novel that first made Richler famous. The story is clever: Duddy, marginalized and impoverished, working-class and academically challenged, with no mother and a "dope" for a father, graduates from high school without any prospects except slaving in his uncle Benjy's garment factory. However, while working as a waiter at a countryside resort he happens upon a lake and decides to buy it to have it developed. This is Duddy's ticket out of poverty and obscurity. With everyone against him, you can't help but root for him. But when it becomes clear that Duddy will do anything to achieve his dream, the question becomes: do you still support him and why? This is essentially a morality play back-dropped by absurdity and treachery. In between the laughs, it raises questions about social class, racism, and capitalism. It remains a Canadian classic.

Troy Parfitt is the author of War Torn: Adventures in the Brave New Canada.
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Format: Paperback
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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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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