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Solomon Gursky Was Here (1989)

af Mordecai Richler

MedlemmerAnmeldelserPopularitetGennemsnitlig vurderingOmtaler
7771321,036 (3.92)59
Berger, son of the failed poet L.B. Berger, is in the grips of an obsession. The Gursky family with its colourful bootlegging history, its bizarre connections with the North and the Inuit, and its wildly eccentric relations, both fascinates and infuriates him. His quest to unravel their story leads to the enigmatic Ephraim Gursky: document forger in Victorian England, sole survivor of the ill-fated Franklin expedition and charasmatic religious leader of the Arctic. Of Ephraim's three grandsons, Bernard has fought, wheeled and cheated his way to the head of a liquor empire. His brother Morrie has reluctantly followed along. But how does Ephraim's protege, Solomon, fit in? Elusive, mysterious and powerful, Solomon Gursky hovers in the background, always out of Moses' grasp, but present-like an omen.… (mere)
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Viser 1-5 af 13 (næste | vis alle)
The Gursky family is populated with legendary characters. The most legendary is Ephraim, apparently one of two survivors of the ill-fated Franklin expedition, but it is his grandson Solomon that attracts the attention of would-be writer Moses Berger. Moses knows the later generation of Gurskys, the nieces and nephews of Solomon, but Solomon himself has always been an elusive figure. Moses is set on writing Solomon’s biography and sorting out the legend from the truth.

This book took Mordecai Richler about 10 years to write, and it is intricately constructed, told in a non-linear manner. We cross time and space and come back again, from Ephraim to Lucy, from Bernie to Isaac, from Lionel to Solomon (fleetingly), from the high north to Magog to Victorian England. Motifs recur, such as the raven, and some events are retold from different perspectives, adding to the reader’s understanding (or perhaps muddying it, if the truth is not certain).

What drew me in to this book was the Franklin expedition angle, and Richler delivered on that excellently. Vivid descriptions of the expedition in its glory, and equally vivid, to the point of horrific, imaginings of the crew’s decline in the weather conditions for which they were so utterly unprepared.

And as an aviation enthusiast, I loved the descriptions of Otters and Cessnas used to fly people in to Yellowknife and points further north, and of course the mystery surrounding Solomon’s Gypsy Moth.

I would recommend this if you, like me, enjoyed Barney’s Version, or really if you’re looking to try out a book by Richler. The Franklin expedition angle is handled well, and if you’ve read Frozen in Time, by Owen Beattie, that was one of the books Richler referred to while writing Solomon Gursky.

A word of warning: because of the setting and time periods, there are a fair number of instances of characters saying things that are prejudiced against other characters, so maybe don’t read a large-print edition on the bus... ( )
  rabbitprincess | Jan 11, 2020 |
This is an ambitious, confusing and sometimes crazy mixture of fact and fantasy. It tells the story of an ultimately rich Jewish Canadian family from the early nineteenth century to the 1980s. The story is loosely held together by Moses Berger, an alcoholic writer obsessed with the family who has accumulated scraps of information over a lifetime.

At the heart of the story are the legends of the family's founding father Ephraim, a small-time criminal in London who somehow inveigles himself a place on Franklin's ill-fated expedition to find the North-West passage. In Richler's version of the story, Ephraim is the only survivor, first through cannibalism and then by persuading the local Inuit to follow his religious cult.

Ephraim's three grandsons are Bernard, Solomon and Morrie, who we first meet in a remote hotel in rural Saskatchewan where their father is a horse trader. Solomon bets their entire future in a poker game and wins the hotel, and the money that enables them to start a business, initially as bootleggers but eventually as a respectable business, which is run by the controlling patriarch Bernard after the charismatic Solomon disappears in a mysterious plane crash.

These are just two of the many strands of a tale that encompasses many disparate elements, and allows Richler to indulge his interests in history, Inuit customs, Judaism and much else besides.

The book is deliberately muddled, partly to reflect Moses's addled mind, and partly to allow some surprising revelations to be held back until quite late. For me it is too long, and I did feel that the female characters' roles were very limited, but the best parts are very good indeed.

I read it as part of Goodreads' The Mookse and the Gripes group's project to analyse the 1990 Booker prize shortlist. 1990 was another very strong year, and I can't place this one any higher that fifth, but in other years it might have been a strong contender, and I would be interested in reading more Richler. ( )
  bodachliath | Apr 3, 2019 |
Excellent, absurde, débridé, méchant ( )
  Danielec | Mar 15, 2017 |
I found this rambling and meandering and gave up after Chapter 8. Perhaps if I'd finished the book, the overall coherence would have emerged - along with a sense of satisfaction. I just didn't have the patience to slog through page after page of seemingly endless disconnected vignettes with no sense of progression. Richler is wildly inventive, entertaining, and very funny; he excels at inventing preposterous situations, riddled with hilarious dialog (and peppered with profanity). But 400 pages of this is too much. Not the novel for me. ( )
  jeddak | Jan 27, 2017 |
Coming from a family of bootleggers that became legitimate, Solomon chooses a much different path than his two brothers.
  MerrittGibsonLibrary | Jul 8, 2016 |
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Berger, son of the failed poet L.B. Berger, is in the grips of an obsession. The Gursky family with its colourful bootlegging history, its bizarre connections with the North and the Inuit, and its wildly eccentric relations, both fascinates and infuriates him. His quest to unravel their story leads to the enigmatic Ephraim Gursky: document forger in Victorian England, sole survivor of the ill-fated Franklin expedition and charasmatic religious leader of the Arctic. Of Ephraim's three grandsons, Bernard has fought, wheeled and cheated his way to the head of a liquor empire. His brother Morrie has reluctantly followed along. But how does Ephraim's protege, Solomon, fit in? Elusive, mysterious and powerful, Solomon Gursky hovers in the background, always out of Moses' grasp, but present-like an omen.

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