MONTREAL – Fourteen years after the death of internationally celebrated Montreal author Mordecai Richler, the city he immortalized in his books has finally officially honoured him.
Montreal Mayor Denis Coderre announced Thursday afternoon in front of Richler’s widow and two of his sons that a French-language library in the novelist’s old neighbourhood of Mile End would be renamed in honour of the late author.
Coderre also posthumously named Richler an Honorary Citizen of the city.
Richler was born in Montreal in 1931 and died at the age of 70 in 2001.
He was best known for such classics as “The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz” and “Barney’s Version,” both of which were set in Montreal and made into feature films.
The city had been planning to honour the literary legend since 2011 with a renovated bandstand on the eastern flank of Montreal’s Mount Royal Park, but years of bureaucratic wrangling kept the project from taking off.
Richler’s wife, Florence, said earlier this year that the city’s “incompetence” had prevented the author from getting honoured earlier or during his lifetime.
Many in the city considered Richler’s highly critical satire of Quebec society and its language laws to be an important reason why it took 14 years after his death for the city to make a firm decision on how to honour him.
Luc Ferrandez, the mayor of the district that is home to the newly renamed library, said Thursday “the decision to name an overwhelmingly French library in honour of a man whose relationship with the French majority in Quebec may have seemed tempestuous and controversial is a less obvious decision,” he said.
But Ferrandez continued that Richler “made us aware of our own complexity … and he never completely turned his back on what he must have felt was the real source of his own worldliness and his clear sense of irony and satire.”
Coderre said the city is still planning to re-name the Mount Royal gazebo after Richler.
Renovations will cost around $300,000, Coderre said, and will begin this summer, four years after the city first promised to get it done.
Coderre said the city has the money and there are no more obstacles in the way for renovations to begin come summer.
“Look at me – trust me,” he said. “The money is there, I’ll paint it myself if I have to.”
Richler, who was born in Montreal, left the city in the 1950s and moved to Europe where he lived for 20 years until returning in 1972.