For most Quebeckers, Mordecai Richler was most memorable in the final decade of his life for his controversial statements, or for those he was claimed to have made. A number of critiques of varying quality, but for the most part predictable, followed in the wake of Oh Canada, Oh Quebec! Yet one must allow that in the tense pre-referendum atmosphere of the time, some rushed ahead of themselves in their efforts to respond to his barbs. Although Richler had garnered critical praise for his undeniable literary talent, for Quebec’s francophone intelligentsia his mastery of the novel was suddenly forgotten.
And what about the work? Now that the dust has finally settled on the historical polemic, it is perhaps time to return soberly to the works, fictional and non-fictional, of Mordecai Richler. This is a question raised by the workshop held at Carleton University on 13 April 2007, now to be further explored in a special bilingual issue of Canadian Literature. We invite reflections on the diverse interpretations inspired by Richler’s work from genres such as the novel, pamphlet, journalism, and screenplays that go beyond the humour and cynicism so often studied (although there is clearly seriousness even in the comical). What is the writer’s view of culture, art, and literature? What is to be made of this oeuvre and how it will be inscribed in Canadian literary histories? Further interdisciplinary studies may investigate the limits and possibilities of popular history, and reflections on intercultural encounters.
All non-Aboriginal Canadians and many Aboriginal Canadians can be categorized in some senses as “diasporic.” The degree to which we feel that this label applies to certain kinds of writing is complex. To be “québécois de vieille souche” (of deep roots), or to be of Acadian or Loyalist descent oen means that one is not categorized as “diasporic.” One’s family history here allows an exemption from such labels as “multicultural,” “immigrant,” or “diasporic.” Bearing these historical and theoretical questions in mind, Canadian Literature encourages papers on writers who might be viewed as “diasporic,” in their self-perceptions, style, themes, or theoretical concerns.
Some questions that might spark a response:
- Are Newfoundland writers living off the island diasporic?
- Are Aboriginal writers living outside their traditional territories diasporic?
- What are the nuances of sense reflectede in such terms as “diasporic,” “multicultural,” and “immigrant,” and how should we view them in literary discussions?
- What are the generational effects of diaspora? To what extent (and for how long) are writers burdened with conveying diasporic histories, representing diasporic communities?
- How have diaspora and related concepts been affected by cheap air travel, the internet, the relative wealth and privilege of at least some categories of new citizens, varying mainstream pressures to assimilate through time, racism, and other social forces?