Solomon Gursky Was Here: A History by Hunger


Somolon Gursky Was Here, the most expansively historical of Mordecai Richler’s novels, is riddled with instances of transgressive eating and drinking. This article examines the theme of consumption, especially bad or forbidden consumption, in relation to the story of ethnic contamination and taboo-breaking Richler offers as the Canadian master narrative. It argues, however, that in some contrast with Richler’s earlier work, Gursky does not champion any unbound appetitive cosmopolitanism. Instead of ridiculing injunctions like kashrut law or Prohibition as needless, the novel argues their untenability. This perspective allows transgressive appetite, though inevitable, to remain legible as genuine moral disturbance. The article proposes this pattern, of inherent, irrepressible desires and the moral trauma they engender, as the engine of Richler’s history.

This article “Solomon Gursky Was Here: A History by Hunger” originally appeared in Spectres of Modernism. Spec. issue of Canadian Literature 209 (Summer 2011): 127-140.

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