Page 33 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 40

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ath o f “mak ing it” in the media world, the Horsem an is p re ­
ented as an aveng ing angel, pitting his fearle ss dar ing aga in st the
orces which threaten Jew ish dignity and survival. Recap itu lating
he m a jor events o f recent Jew ish history, Richler has the H o rse ­
an engage the anti-Semites in the streets o f Montreal, rescue
e fugee s from war-torn Eu rope , enlist in Israe l’s War o f In d e ­
endence , combat A rab incursions into kibbutzim and ultimately,
rack down Mengele in South America. As con jured up by the
ero, the H orsem an ’s protean actions are a rebuke to his passiv­
ty, an agon izing rem inder that others have thrown themselves
nto worthy causes which he can only contemplate from a far .
As announced by its title, Joshua Then and Now deals with the
Richlerian world where the hero seeks an equilibrium between
the jo stling dem and s o f past and presen t. A writer and media
personality, he tries to wrest an identity from the mysterious
process o f being which in his persona l history ran ge s from
d isrepu tab le or ig in s in the Montreal ghetto to the po lished
sophistication o f Wasp country clubs. T h e tone o f the novel is
uncertain , wavering between harshly comic portraits o f Jo sh u a ’s
old chums, now wealthy p rofessionals and investors, and a serious
account o f his own endeavors to attain a sense o f inner unity. His
search , like the novel itself, is left open-ended . Th e final note is
one o f irresolution : All the ingredients o f his past have been
summoned but stubbornly resist absorption into the presen t,
leaving the hero restless, unable to recogn ize him self in the vivid
mages o f his fo rm e r life.
Richler’s great subject is social change and its consequences. His
satiric art, like that o f all satirists b efo re him, is the exp ression o f a
onservative instinct m ea su r in g the thinness o f m odern life
gainst the nostalgic recreations o f the past. In the fore fron t o f his
haracterization is the parvenu, the snot-nosed kid from the
lums who has scramb led to wealth, but is still betrayed by bad
anners and worse taste. Th is society which Richler knows inti­
mately, has always been his fictional world. His satiric exam in a­
ion o f the foibles o f the em ergen t middle-class p ronounce s on
heir ineptitude and ridiculous posturing , giving a sharp portra it
f a generation in transition. By limiting h im self to this vein,