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Concordia honours literary icon

University opens Mordecai Richler Reading Room, displays writerly possessions
November 28, 2013
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By Sylvain-Jacques Desjardins

An icon of Canadian literature has commenced a new chapter at Concordia University.

The Mordecai Richler Reading Room has opened to honour the late novelist, screenwriter and essayist who attended one of Concordia’s founding institutions, Sir George Williams University, between 1949 and 1951 and who served as its writer in residence in 1968 and 1969.

Mordecai Richler's widow Florence and son Jacob Mordecai Richler's widow Florence and son Jacob at the opening. | Photo: Joe Dresdner

Concordia is now the home of Richler’s desk, typewriter, some of his private papers, books and mementos, as well as an ashtray that once brimmed over with his cigars.

Located in the Webster Library on the sixth floor of the J. W. McConnell Building, the room is at the heart of Richler’s old haunts at Concordia’s Sir George Williams Campus.

The author’s personal effects were generously donated to the university by Richler’s literary estate thanks to Frederick Lowy — Concordia president and vice-chancellor from 1995 to 2005 and again from January 2011 until July 2012 — who championed the opening of the Mordecai Richler Reading Room to honour its namesake.

“The creation of the Mordecai Richler Reading Room will ensure that his works continue to be analyzed, celebrated and critiqued for generations to come,” said Concordia President Alan Shepard.

Richler by Aislin RICHLER BY AISLIN: Terry Mosher, aka Aislin, has generously shared with Concordia some of his many cartoons of Mordecai Richler.

“We thank the Richler family for giving us this deeply personal collection and for understanding the importance of Mordecai’s connections to Concordia — both historical and philosophical.

”Richler’s personal papers and library will eventually be available for consultation by students, writers and the general public via an online database.

“It was my wish that Concordia be custodian of my late husband’s writerly possessions,” said Florence Richler. “Mordecai worked incredibly hard to leave behind a body of work that would endure. That legacy will be immeasurably strengthened with the addition of the Mordecai Richler Reading Room at Concordia.”

Inspiring a new generation of writers

By opening the Mordecai Richler Reading Room, Concordia has created a hub that will inspire creative writers, spark fresh ideas among students and foster original research from scholars. Visible 24/7 through glass walls, the gathering place will host literary readings, master classes, cultural gatherings and short writing residencies.

Mordecai Richler Mordecai Richler spoke at Concordia Homecoming in 1999

Friends of the university helped make the Mordecai Richler Reading Room possible. David and Ruth Steinberg, Beryl Goldman and the Felicia and Arnold Aaron Foundation provided financial support, while Alvin Segal, chairman and CEO of Montreal-based Peerless Clothing, allowed Concordia to store the collection in his warehouse for over a year.  

A Companion of the Order of Canada, Richler died in 2001. His novels are still read the world over and are translated in dozens of languages from French to Finnish. Indeed, his works continue to be adapted as film and stage productions as well as audio books. Among his novels St. Urbain’s Horseman won a Governor General's Award, Solomon Gursky Was Here was awarded the Commonwealth Writers' Prize, while Barney's Version won the Giller Prize.

The Richler collection includes 6,000 books, many of which are annotated by the late author. The collection was catalogued by three graduate and seven undergraduate students from the Department of English under the supervision of Professor Jason Camlot.

“There are real treasures in this collection that researchers will want to consult, such as papers related to an unwritten, non-fiction book,” said Camlot. “It’s a wonderful resource for Concordia students. From now on, every creative writing student will be able to say ‘I studied in the Mordecai Richler Reading Room.’”



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