Solomon Gursky Was Here
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The novel tells of several generations of the fictional Gursky family, who are connected to several disparate events in the history of Canada, including the Franklin Expedition and rum-running. Some fans and critics have cited this as Mordecai Richler's best book, and in terms of scope and style it is unmatched by his other works. The parallels between the Gursky family and the Bronfmans are such that the novel "may be seen as a thinly disguised account of the [Bronfman] family". While Richler himself denied any similarities, "one longtime Bronfman associate put it, 'I don't know why Mordecai bothered to change the names.'"
The tale centres on Moses Berger, an alcoholic failed writer who is obsessed with Solomon Gursky, the brother of Bernard and Morrie and absent from the family empire after a fatal plane crash. Perhaps it was his disappointment with his own father that put him on the trail of Solomon, a character as strong-willed as he was mysterious.
Moses follows a zigzagging line through time and place, with further narrative leapfrogging provided by the achronological documents Moses finds in his quest: from 19th century London to the Arctic Circle to the familiar confines of 20th century Montreal, and more. The art of weaving each scene and storyline together into a coherent whole calls up an image of Richler mapping a massive time-line on his living room wall. The story, like other of his works, runs like a salmon on a hook, then dances on the water, only to plunge unseen again into deep, cold water. Many of the background stories are mysteries in their own right.
After fleeing legal proceedings, Solomon is reported dead in an airplane crash, leaving Moses to sort fact from fiction and life from death.
- Taylor, Graham D, "Seagram Comes to Scotland: The Role of Local Players in the Overseas Expansion of a Canadian Multinational, 1949-1965", Business and Economic History, 7, 2009.
- Janofsky, J: "Whiskey sour: a great family saga full of booze, ambition … and shame", Literary Review of Canada, September 2006.