Book info

The Incomparable Atuk (1989)

The Incomparable Atuk (1989)
Rating
3.09 of 5 Votes: 2
ISBN
0771099738 (ISBN13: 9780771099731)
languge
English
genre
publisher
new canadian library
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The Incomparable Atuk (1989)
The Incomparable Atuk (1989)

About book: Goodreads SummaryTransplanted to Toronto from his native Baffin Island, Atuk the poet is an unlikely overnight success. Eagerly adapting to a society steeped in pretension, bigotry, and greed, Atuk soon abandons the literary life in favour of more lucrative – and hazardous – schemes.Richler’s hilarious and devastating satire lampoons the self-deceptions of “the Canadian identity” and derides the hypocrisy of a nation that seeks cultural independence by slavishly pursuing the American dream. My ReviewIn school, I wrote a fairly impressive review on this book, (bagged myself an A), but this review will be fairly short and sweet. Surprisingly enough, I enjoyed Atuk, it was the best assigned reading from my Canadian Literature course, and what I thought would be a tragic experience was actually beneficial. This book is entertaining and easy to read, save the semi-disjointedness of passages at times. Richler jumps from a multitude of character perspectives without proper transitioning, making readers feel lost at times. Despite this, the book is interesting. Due to its nature as a satire, laughter is sure to ensue, as well as barbs directed at society, jabs intended to make you think, has the world really changed? Before knowing this was a 1963 novel, I thought it was at least a 2009 release, just set in an earlier time period. This, I find, is fairly disheartening, that the world seen in these pages is still so accurate a representation of today's society. The ambition, back-stabbing and hypocrisy are rampant still, and nothing has really changed; people have just gotten better at hiding their true natures. This bothers me. What good is pretending? It only makes matters worse and people don't learn anything because no one sees how twisted they are; to the world they represent the perfect citizens, and in their homes followers of Nazi fascism or Ku Klux Klan members. From a supposed modernized world, this is disgusting; give me a break! In 2012 you are going to stand there and tell me that you think because of your skin colour - something you had no say regarding - you are BETTER than Black, Asian, Hispanic, or other people of colour?Yeah...I think the whole world needs a therapy session. We need to sit down and discuss our issues, why we feel the way we do, why our hatred for one another is detrimental to progress and why hiding it in a box doesn't solve anything. Not to say that dumbass Ku Klux Klan activity will be remotely tolerated. You want to elevate yourself over others? You want me to feel bad for my skin colour, inferior? Screw that. Let me tell you exactly why that cannot and will not happen; you are not God. The day these insecure individuals realize the greater bad they do onto others and the world, we will be a step closer to actually accomplishing something. But...I'm getting off topic here, and a little pissed while at it. *Breathes deeply*Back to the book. I still think racism is the dumbest thing since those giant old-type phones you connect to your cell-phone. You know, redundant and useless? That's how I see this whole business of egotistic individuals imagining themselves as superior. Nobody cares, get over it. Ahem. Anyway, I believe the successfulness of this work in particular is due to Richler's ability to make early Toronto a familiar place to readers, mainly because we are still living there. The dude probably didn't know what he was on to, but hey, it works! People would easily back-stab somebody for their job or position as they would for the last piece of apple pie. Atuk tries to buy into this world of competition and excessiveness, but cannot succeed. Our methods of pretension and craftiness far outweigh the Eskimo's, and in a way Richler asks, did he ever really stand a chance?3/5 stars

A book length "Modest Proposal" on what would happen if Canada really acted out its anti-American attitudes but tried to keep its tried and true Canadian values of bigotry, greed and boorishness while still trying to help those inferior to themselves (condescension intended).Not content to be labelled as a self-hating Jew by critics for The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz, Richler sought to broaden his reach and go for the self-hating Canadian medal as well. That would be to "Stick Your Neck Out" and no self-respecting Canadian wants to be seen as doing that! Not only being a self-hating Canadian, but one who tries to be the most self-hating Canadian!But seriously folks. The satire here is so broad and spot-on that even the thinnest skinned reader must chuckle. Richler enjoys to put the shoes on the other foot time and time again and to see what happens. For example, a Jewish leader who doesn't want Eskimos to mingle with Canadians because your daughter would play with them and maybe one day she comes home and wants to marry one! But sometimes the targets are obscure to an American reader 50 years afterwards.
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Reviews
Jay Szpirs
It is a stunning thing when a writer as practiced, precise, and methodical as Richler gives the 'South Park' treatment to the national myths of the day. Although couched in language that is unarguably antiquated and with a sensibility that is sure to ruffle the feathers of more sensitive modern readers, Richler's critique of who we (Canadians) think we are is still poignant and, largely, valid.'Atuk' is the story of an "Eskimo" poet (already, the language of the novel dates it. Racist terminology peppers the entire novel and speaks to prevailing ideas of race at the time) who, after settling in Toronto, comes to embody the worst aspects of western culture. While projecting an image of the 'noble savage', Atuk runs a sweat shop in his basement where his relatives make 'authentic Eskimo' sculptures, seduces, lies, and cheats his way to the top. For me, this represents the thesis of the novel: not only do the basest aspects of our culture ruin us, but every other culture it contacts.Along the way, Atuk mixes with characters equally debauched, many of them from minorities as well. Richler is clearly having great fun with this idea: that racism is not exclusive to any one ethnic group and no cultural background is immune to the corrupting influence of success. Memorable moments include a Black character who escapes detection by the man he has just cuckolded by saying, "I guess we all look alike to you". Atuk turns the traditional defenses of Zionism on their head by applying them to Canada. A female reporter and cross-dressing RCMP officer poke holes in our assumptions about sexuality. Richler has minted a universe filled with characters who all undermine our assumptions about race and gender: the resentful liberal who is angered at the all-too-human actions of the minorities he champions, xenophobic and unobservant Rabbis, a self-help guru who shamelessly helps himself. In the world of 'Atuk', The corrupting influence of success, be it financial, academic, or social, pervades everything and undermines our noblest and most cherished values and, worse, our self-image.'Atuk' is a book that has a great deal to say about the young nation of Canada in the 1960's, much of which is relevant to the Canada of today. If nothing else, it subverts our sense of moral superiority and reminds us that, for all of our enlightened, liberal values, everyone is a little bit racist and if we are unwilling to cross-examine ourselves, Richler will happily do it for us.
Cynthia
The message of this book rings true today - the hypocrisy of Canadians who strive to differentiate themselves from Americans by honouring Canadian culture regardless of its quality. Of course we have some very high quality art and culture, but let's face it, certain tv shows that would never have made it through a season in the US are still with us years later - cough, cough, Corner Gas. And while I love the Group of Seven too, if I see their art bastardized on one more set of coasters or placemats, I'm going to scream! So Mordecai Richler makes some excellent points here, however, this book itself represents to me the same phenomena...it's extremely dull and unentertaining, but full of Canadian content. Is this an ironic example of another Canadian work of art that has been given some attention simply because it was created by a Canadian icon, or did Richler actually write it using such a technique to drive home his point? If I knew that answer, I'd be able to determine whether I liked this book or not. I loved the Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz and would love to think that Mordecai couldn't disappoint me with later works, and yet...I was as entertained reading this as I was when I wathced 5 minutes of Corner Gas....
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