Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Saviour: Richler’s Picaro Messiahs


The paper focuses on two mature novels by Mordecai Richler, namely St. Urbain’s Horseman and Solomon Gursky Was Here. Taking into account the powerful influence of orthodox religion on the writer’s imagination, the two works are analyzed through the lens of the messianic myth, central to Judaism and underlying, overtly or otherwise, a considerable portion of Jewish writing worldwide. The author of the paper argues that Richler, given to all-encompassing ambivalence (a term already employed by Ramraj in an early critical study), infuses the messianic with a picaresque element; this deconstructive gesture, however, does not rob the myth of its power. The eponymous Horseman and Solomon Gursky are the results of this unusual blend of the messianic and the picaresque, mythicized into larger-than-life figures by Jake Hersh and Moses Berger, respectively, two self-avowed failures badly in need of spiritual and moral guidance. Whereas on the one hand the argument helps situate Richler on the verge of postmodernist discourse, on the other it serves to emphasize the ethical dimension of his writing.

This article “Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Saviour: Richler’s Picaro Messiahs” originally appeared in Mordecai Richler. Spec. issue of Canadian Literature 207 (Winter 2010): 60-72.

Please note that works on the Canadian Literature website may not be the final versions as they appear in the journal, as additional editing may take place between the web and print versions. If you are quoting reviews, articles, and/or poems from the Canadian Literature website, please indicate the date of access.