Page 55 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 51

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GREENSTEIN / NOBODY CHASING EVERYMAN
47
of his family. Noah’s experience in the Laurentians opens a
new vista on Montreal’s ghetto. “The people, the laws, that he
had rebelled against had been replaced by other, less conspic­
uously false, laws and people while he had been away. That
shifting of the ghetto sands seemed terribly unfair to him. If
the standard man can be defined by his possessions, then rob
his house and you steal his identity. Noah had supposed himself
not to be a standard man. But his house had been robbed and
his identity had been lost. He was shaken. Not only because
he felt a need to redefine himself, but because he realized, at
last, that all this time he had only been defining himself Against”
(p. 179).
The process of Canadian-Jewish redefinition calls for a re­
alization of limitations, of the positives of smaller heroes who
are something more than nobody and less than Everyman —
in other words, the common man who possesses the values of
mentshlikhkayt
rather than the valuables of materialism. Despite
his uncle’s invocation of the biblical or mythological dimension
(“I f there’s another flood. . . Noah deserves to be dead”), Noah
resurfaces and, a Columbus in reverse, gains the shores of Eu­
rope where he will further refine and redefine himself. Like
other Canadian Jews from the Fifties onward, Noah surmounts
ghetto walls and precariously enters the world at large.
A far more exuberant breaking out occurs by the end of the
decade in
The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz,
(1959), Richler’s
portrait of the
pusherke
as land-grabber. Duddy’s grandfather
plants a phrase in the boy’s mind — “a man without land is
nobody” — and the twofold quest for a piece of Canada and
the need to be somebody begins. Themes of trespassing and
running predominate in this tragicomic novel as Duddy races
against the Jewish clock of history and prevents others from
encroaching on his Canadian territory. Quite by accident this
northern Columbus stumbles on his land and lake one summer,
then returns in the winter to reaffirm his possession. No sooner
does he urinate in the snow, writing his name and marking
his identity, than he gets lost in the Laurentian darkness. In
this mythical tragicomedy, Duddy goes around in circles, smiling
but never fulfilling his grandfather’s dreams. The Jewish boy
takes a considerable detour en route to becoming a man.
The following autumn Duddy revisits his land and admires
the seasonal beauty which emphasizes the cyclical pattern of