Barbara Kay reports in the National Post that a Montreal gazebo purportedly commemorating the great Canadian novelist Mordecai Richler is in disrepair.
“Upon his death in 2001,” she writes, ” the question of a memorial arose. For someone of Richler’s stature, the normal honour would have been a street name in the immigrant area in which Richler grew up and frequently recreated in his fiction, or an important building – a library for example. Instead it was decided (a full ten years after his death, such was the foot-dragging) that his memorial would be the addition of his name to an old gazebo in Mount Royal park. Many Montrealers thought this ultra-modest gesture was a gross insult, an intentional posthumous “finger” to Richler by nationalists.”
Kay then quotes a concerned citizen’s description of the memorial:
“It has no stairs nor flooring. It is missing a section of the railing. The paint is flaking and hasn’t been painted in years. The roof shingles are decaying and some are missing completely…I have NEVER seen a Commemorative Plaque or Post … acknowledging for whom the gazebo was dedicated … this is truly shameful conduct for a city that has been Re-Branded some years back by the provincial Gov’t as a ‘Metropole Culturel’…”
The city of Montreal has $300,000 to spend on the memorial, according to the article, but doesn’t plan to do so before the summer of 2013.
“What kind of message does that send to the literary world?” concludes Kay. “It sends the message that Richler’s harsh assessment of nationalist hostility to anglophone culture was right on the mark.”
It also, paradoxically, tells us that separatists are well aware of how celebrating (or ignoring) the work and lives of important writers and artists, helps shape the cultural identity of a country.