Montreal’s beloved author Mordecai Richler had a voice all his own and until his death in 2001, he continued to create original protagonists struggling to find morality and redemption in a corrupt world. His novel, The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz, set in Montreal’s Jewish ghetto, was published in 1959 and earned him a great deal of critical attention. It was turned into an award-winning film of the same name for which Richler wrote the screenplay; forty-five years later, the book is still being read by students across the country. Duddy Kravitz was followed by novels like St. Urbain’s Horsemen, Joshua Then and Now, Solomon Gursky was Here and Barney’s Version, the latter earning the author the coveted Giller Prize in 2001.
Although the authors share vastly different cultural roots, both Richler and Vassanji regard themselves as outsiders in their respective societies – one a Jew in Quebec, the other an Indian in Uganda who emigrated to Canada. Born in Kenya in 1950 to an Indian family, M.G. Vassanji left the African continent as a young man to earn a Ph.D. in nuclear physics at MIT. He later moved to Canada to work at the Chalk River atomic power station in Ontario. Vassanji’s first novel, The Gunny Sack, was published in 1989 and earned him the regional Commonwealth Writer’s Prize the following year. He soon left his career in physics and took on writing full time, winning the Giller Prize twice (a record defeated only by Alice Munro in 2004), in 1994 and 2003 for The Book of Secrets and The In Between World of Vikram Lall, respectively. In 2007, The Assassin’s Song was shortlisted for the Giller Prize.