Authors: Mordecai Richler
“A rich, labyrinthian and always entertaining novel, bursting with life and moral energy.…”
“A rich, profound novel which stands as a rare reminder that one of the prime purposes of literature is pleasure.”
“Richler is a
writer, which is rare.… Richler’s satire can be as lethal as Swift’s and his humor as subtle as Leacock’s.”
“An impressive literary achievement.”
Regina Leader Post
“Immensely readable and richly comic,
Joshua Then and Now
is a well-crafted, prismatic novel.… Richler’s language is coarse, irreverent, direct, his insights true, his judgements precise.”
London Free Press
“A comic, rambling romp through four decades of Canadian society with the always audacious Richler as guide.”
“Brilliant.… Richler is mordantly ironic, wearily worldywise and truly cynical.… A mature, beautifully crafted, skillfully written novel.…”
“Crackling with wit, guile, black humor and contempt.…”
Son of a Smaller Hero
A Choice of Enemies
The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz
The Incomparable Atuk
St. Urbain’s Horseman (1971)
Joshua Then and Now
Solomon Gursky Was Here
FICTION FOR YOUNG ADULTS
Jacob Two-Two Meets the Hooded Fang
Jacob Two-Two and the Dinosaur
Jacob Two-Two’s First Spy Case
Oh Canada! Oh Quebec!:
Requiem for a Divided Country
This Year in Jerusalem
Images of Spain
Hunting Tigers Under Glass: Essays and Reports
Notes on an Endangered Species and Others
The Great Comic Book Heroes and Other Essays
Home Sweet Home: My Canadian Album
Broadsides: Reviews and Opinions
Belling the Cat: Essays, Reports, and Opinions
On Snooker: The Game and the Characters Who Play It (2001)
The Best of Modern Humour
Writers on World War II
Copyright © 1980 by Mordecai Richler
This book was originally published by McClelland & Stewart in 1980.
First Emblem Editions publication 2001
All rights reserved. The use of any part of this publication reproduced, transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise, or stored in a retrieval system, without the prior written consent of the publisher – or, in case of photocopying or other reprographic copying, a licence from the Canadian Copyright Licensing Agency – is an infringement of the copyright law.
National Library of Canada Cataloguing in Publication Data
Richler, Mordecai, 1931-
Joshua then and now
We acknowledge the financial support of the Government of Canada through the Book Publishing Industry Development Program for our publishing activities. We further acknowledge the support of the Canada Council for the Arts and the Ontario Arts Council for our publishing program.
SERIES EDITOR: ELLEN SELIGMAN
Series logo design: Brian Bean
McClelland & Stewart Ltd.
75 Sherbourne Street
Lay your sleeping head, my love
Human on my faithless arm;
Time and fevers burn away
Individual beauty from
Thoughtful children, and the grave
Proves the child ephemeral:
But in my arms till break of day
Let the living creature lie
Mortal, guilty, but to me
The entirely beautiful
W. H. AUDEN
OOK AT ME NOW, JOSHUA THOUGHT
His right leg was no longer suspended by pulleys from a hospital ceiling, but it was still held in a cast, multiple fractures healing slowly at his age. There were no more tubes unwinding out of his nostrils or feeding him intravenously or draining his lungs. Lungs bubbling with blood whenever he took a breath. Yet he continued to brood about all the blood they had pumped into him. Twelve alien pints. It flooded his dreams, it polluted his waking hours. The odds were that some of the blood had been peddled to the hospital by winos or junkies. I’m bound to come down with hepatitis, he thought. Worse, maybe.
Although his cracked ribs were on the mend, or so they assured him, it was still excruciating for him to cough. The cast wouldn’t come off his right arm until Thursday, but he could already wiggle the fingers of his right hand. There were places where he was free to scratch. If a magazine was mounted on his reading stand, he could turn the pages himself. But
, no longer an abomination (excoriating Adlai, clapping hands for Senator Joseph McCarthy of blessed memory), wasn’t much fun any more either, now that it was informed by decency. More liberal pieties. Neither were there any more gratifyingly unjust wars to read about, where you could at least root for the downtrodden. Screw the downtrodden – muggers, the lot. The
Khmer Rouge, the Vietnamese, were interchangeable enigmas to him, and he didn’t much care who won that one. Or, come to think of it, which National Liberation Front came out on top in Botswana, or whatever they were calling that chunk of uppity Africa this week. Good news: Bob Hope, he read, has announced that he wants to do a
special in China. After the Long March, following the years deprivation, the ultimate Great Leap Forward. The William Morris Agency, Swifty Lazar, Sue Mengers, or whoever represented hope with a capital H, would soon be out there in the Middle Kingdom, negotiating points with Teng Hsiao-p’ing, proffering serendipity in living color for once-recalcitrant chinks. Imagine, in the absence of Virginia Mayo, this year’s Miss America disco-dancing out of the mouth of a cave in Yenan clad in a Halston original.
Next year maybe Sonny and Cher would come to us direct from Auschwitz, singing “The Way We Were” before the open doors of a reconstructed crematorium.
The bandages had been peeled from his shaven skull, cracks having knitted together again. Doctors no longer surrounded his bed with solicitude, their expressions grave, whispering to each other, frowning over charts, even as they asked him his name, what day of the week it was, or the ages of his children. Alex, eighteen; Susy, fourteen; Teddy, ten. I will be no more of a dolt, he thought, than I was before. Small satisfaction. But at least he was through with the bedpan. If he was helped out of bed, taking it
poco a poco
, he was now able to go to the toilet himself.
Only last Tuesday, Joshua’s bed had been wheeled surreptitiously into an elevator; he was loaded into an ambulance idling at a rear door of the Montreal General and sped across the Champlain Bridge, down the familiar Route 10,
autoroute des cantons de l’est
, to their cottage on Lake Memphremagog. Bliss. Cranked into a sitting position, he could now actually see the lake through the window, rather than sour septuagenarians shuffling down a hospital hall to file
a good bowel movement, as if that were proof against a carcinoma. Although the ice had broken up only a week earlier, swollen sails were already skittering across the bay. There were also men in small boats anchored off the far point – most of them bona fide fishermen casting for perch, but others equipped with telephoto lenses, casting for Joshua Shapiro, Esquire. A few had come from as far as Fleet Street to wait him out at the Hatley Inn, where they insisted on smoked salmon for breakfast, complaining loudly about its stringiness, having already stuffed hotel bath towels into the bottoms of their suitcases.
The birds were back. In the early morning hours, before anybody else in the cottage had risen, he watched the lake’s sole surviving loon wheeling over the water, diving for sunfish and smelts. Once he saw an early golden finch swooping between the budding birch trees. In the evening, there were the robins feeding on water spiders. He couldn’t see Susy and Teddy on the dock below – even if he strained, they were beyond his line of vision – but he could hear Susy squealing each time Teddy hooked a perch, and he blessed them.
He was getting better. No doubt about it. One morning, with Reuben’s support, he even managed to hobble as far as his upstairs study, fighting dizziness, trying to gather reassurance from the familiar artifacts. The framed boxing, hockey, and baseball photographs. Cassius Clay, as he was then, gloating over a prone Sonny Liston. Al Weill sitting with a puffy-eyed, bandaged Rocky Marciano after the Walcott fight. A beetle-browed Maurice “The Rocket” Richard in full flight. Koufax throwing. And then, in the place of honor, his most cherished possession. The poster.
MADRID WILL BE THE TOMB OF FASCISM
Every house a fortress, every street a trench, every neighborhood a wall of iron and combatants …
Emulate Petrograd! 7 November on the Manzanares must be as glorious as on the Neva!
TOMORROW PREPARE TO TAKE YOUR HUSBAND’S
LUNCH TO THE TRENCHES, NOT THE FACTORY
VIVA MADRID WITHOUT A GOVERNMENT