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Solomon Gursky Was Here
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Solomon Gursky Was Here

3.92 of 5 stars 3.92  ·  rating details  ·  1,549 ratings  ·  64 reviews
Moses Berger, son of the failed poet L.B. Berger, is in the grip 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 Englan...more
Paperback, 576 pages
Published January 24th 2002 by Penguin Canada (first published 1989)
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Community Reviews

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What a rollicking humdinger of a roller coaster ride! Moses Berger's obsession with the Gursky dynasty pitches the reader from an early 19th century Durham coal mine to the 1980s Eastern Townships, with Franklin's disastrous voyage to find the Northwest passage and the building of a commercial empire based on the sale and production of alcohol with the murkiest, muddiest, most questionable of methods that slide in and out of legality in a slippery and deadly game. Five generations of Gurskys, in...more
E’ un buon romanzo, ma meno coinvolgente de La versione di Barney, probabilmente perché quest’ultimo aveva un unico protagonista che catalizzava tutta l’attenzione, a dispetto delle tante figure, secondarie o meno, che pur costellavano il racconto. Barney era un “figlio di puttana”, al pari del precedente Duddy Kravitz, che non potevi fare a meno di trovare simpatico. Qui, diciamo, di “figli di puttana” ce ne sono un po’ troppi per reggerli proprio tutti.

Ci vuole un po’ ad ingranare, perché la...more
Jul 04, 2009 K rated it 2 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: die-hard Richler fans who like Dickensian-type sagas
Imagine if I told you the story of Dr. Seuss’s “The Cat in the Hat” in the following way:

Chapter 1 – the birth of Thing One and Thing Two
Chapter 2 – after the children’s mother comes home at the end
Chapter 3 – the cat’s early childhood years
Chapter 4 – the fish’s perspective as the cat wrecks the house

And so on, and so forth, for 400 pages. Reading this book was a similar experience.

The basic plot of “Solomon Gursky was Here” focuses on the rise and exploits of the notoriously wealthy and powerf...more
Non è una lettura facile. Il continuo andirivieni nelle vite dei Gursky ti costringe a consultare l'albero genealogico di inizio libro più e più volte. Storie che si intrecciano e saltellano avanti e indietro sulla linea del tempo, mescolando personaggi, effetti e cause in una struttura narrativa nella quale è umanamente possibile perdere il filo. Il Solomon del titolo è solo uno dei tre fratelli che con una certa predisposizione al raggiro riuscirà a costruirsi un simil impero ai tempi del proi...more
Apr 11, 2011 Ben rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: History buffs, people who enjoy mob stories, Canadians, Jewish people
Imagine Midnight's Children meets the Godfather. Now make it contiguous with 200 years of Canadian history. Now make it one of the most suspenseful, fascinating and hilarious thing you've ever read.

If you were able to imagine all that, you might have a taste for what this remarkable (but unfortunately underrated) novel has to offer. If you can keep up with the non-chronological narration, dozens of interesting characters, and the magical properties of the mysterious, trickster raven that weave...more
I would give it a 5 if I were only expressing the pleasure I had in reading this hilarious and interesting shaggy family saga based mainly on the Canadian Bronfman family, of Prohibition liquor running fame. Richler manages to sneak a pair of Jewish con-men onto Franklin's Arctic expedition, one of them purportedly Gursky's/Bronfman's progenitor and the rest is history - sort of.
Grant Patten
What a mess! ... This was my first and likely last Richler novel. I was expecting something a lot more coherent out of a man who was supposedly one of the great Canadian novelists. This is a ridiculously overcooked, meandering book with little-to-no focus. I think as late as the final few chapters, Richler was STILL introducing new characters!! I find it pretty infuriating when an author does that.

The book is far too grandiose in scope. He introduces too many characters, too many disconnected s...more
Karlo Mikhail
In what is touted by critics as possibly Canadian author Mordecai Richler’s best novel, we accompany Moses Berger in his obsessive quest to unravel the secrets of the Gurskys, a Jewish family who ran one of the biggest Canadian business empires. Berger, the son of a Jewish poet, a drunkard and an unsuccessful writer, particularly searches for traces of Solomon Gursky, the most enigmatic of the three Gursky brothers who saw the rise of their family’s fortune during the prohibition years as bootle...more
Can Lit is sort of in thrall to 'Arctic Narratives', and multi-generational epics seem to be a dime-a-dozen just about anywhere, so I was leery of this book at first. But I had read Richler before, and high hopes compelled me to press on despite being a bit confused at the start (I had to flip compulsively to the Gursky family tree every chapter). The narration is nonlinear, so there's your prerequisite dose of bewildering postmodernism I guess, but I found it well-paced and effective.

The dialog...more
Daniel Kukwa
There were times when I believed "Solomon Gursky Was Here" would collapse under the weight of some many time lines, characters, and emotional's the novel equivalent of the most exquisitely constructed Jenga tower...ready to topple over at any moment. Luckily it doesn't...and Mordechai Richler's most ambitious & epic novel manages to hold together with stunning skill. This truly is an astonishing read, and shows a depth & breadth of reach that many people might not have belie...more
Ironical Dins
This is the story of the founding of a family dynasty through the eyes of an outside chronicler, Moses Berger, who is the son of a poet who the family supported. Really, the book is about many things: an obsession with those who are more financially fortunate, living in the shadow of our parents, Jewish experience throughout the world, the North and experiences of the North, family business and prohibition, and, I may be reaching here, who owns the past and who owns Canada's past.
This was my second reading of the book, and twenty years later I still found it an intelligent and hilarious, if somewhat biting, romp through Canadian Jewish history.
Clare O'Beara
I read this the year that it was nominated for the Booker. The story follows a Jewish family and flips between past and present, city and remote wilderness, light-hearted and dramatic. So it is best read in the spirit of adventure.

I found the modern story (1990 modern) the poorer but maybe people who are Jewish would be more interested. The character was not an inspiring sort and he was trying to trace a Canadian family to the adventurer who founded its fortune.

The past character, Solomon Gurs...more
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 o...more
Sprawling and mostly entertaining, and full of Canadian references and in-jokes, some of which I got - and some very interesting concepts, like introducing a significant (and spurious) Jewish element into Arctic history, and/or claiming a bit of the Canadian Arctic mythology for the Jewish community.

There's something lacking here though: chronology, for one, as while I could more or less keep the substantial cast straight, I got lost in time and couldn't remember when these events over 150 years...more

La ricerca di una storia, anzi, la ricerca della vera versione di una storia. "Solomon Gursky è stato qui" è un libro monumentale e non è sicuramente una lettura facile per vari motivi. La trama non segue un semplice cammino lineare, ma viene sviluppata tramite vari intrecci collegati tra loro e raccontati in epoche diverse (prima nel XIX secolo, poi nel 1973, poi negli anni '50, poi si torna negli anni 70). Il linguaggio stesso è arricchito da tanti termini inuit e yiddish, e per seguire be...more
Carl Brush
It’s a pleasure to be back in the company of Mordecai Richler. This is my third session with him, the first without a mention of Duddy Kravitz, the third with home base in Montreal. However, twentieth century Eastern Canada is only a pivot point for Solomon Gursky. It opens in seventeenth century Maine, wanders around to Newgate prison, puts us among a tribe of Jewish Eskimos (courtesy of a disastrous search for the Northwest Passage), generally sprawling all over time and space.
When it’s good,...more
Troy Parfitt
Mordecai Richler’s penultimate novel, and certainly his most ambitious, Solomon Gursky Was Here is a yarn spun around the Gursky brothers – Bernard, Morrie, and Solomon – kings of a whiskey empire forged from bootlegging, millionaires many times over, and based on Canada’s Bronfman family. The brood constitute the grandchildren of one Ephraim Gursky, a Jew and sole survivor of the ill-fated Franklin Expedition, an 1846 attempt at unmasking the Northwest Passage.

Ephraim cuts a trickster figure;...more
Se La versione di Barney era un assolo del protagonista eponimo Solomon Gursky è un romanzo corale, una saga famigliare che compre tre generazioni. Denso di personaggi irresistibili, di temi afascinanti (fra gli altri il passaggio a nord-Ovest e i miti haida) e con una struttura narrativa complessa ma appagante, il romanzo è forse un filo superiore anche al già citato Barney.

Piccolo OT: di solito non accosto mai i romanzi che leggo all'attualità, anzi leggo propio per estraniarmi da quella si pu

This was my first grown-up Mordedcai Richler book, and I was very excited to dig in. However, it took me more than a year to get through this one. It sat on my shelf, as I read bits of it, but got distracted with more gripping books. It felt really long. I've seen other reviews that say it's like a Jewish, Canadian, Northern version of "One Hundred Years of Solitude"...I'd say that's a very good comparison. I read that a few years ago, and it was to same feat to get through.

Despite its collosal...more
I think every book Richler wrote in his life won an award or earned him a literary nomination of some kind. The simple fact is he was a brilliant writer with great characters and wonderful dialogue. Full stop. So brilliant in fact that I often get lost in his tangents and obscure references and accept the fact that I am just a dope who clearly doesn't get all his genius. This being my 4th Richler book (not including Jacob Two-Two of course) and I cannot help but wonder how anyone who is not: a)...more
for reasons I do not fully understand, just thinking about Solomon Gursky converting a tribe of Inuit to a gurskycentric branch of judaism which, a generation or two later, almost causes them to starve to death in the 6 months of daylight/6 months of darkness arctic cycle and confusing the hell out of the well intentioned canadian government and its anthropologists as to why this rogue tribe is refusing to eat (actually attempting to fast but the sun never comes back), makes me laugh.

I was in a...more
Davide Socci
Una lettura che, a dir poco, definirei difficile: vuoi per i vari livelli (cronologici, geografici e culturali) su cui la storia si dipana, vuoi per la modalità del raccontare a frammenti (brani che definire "flashback" mi pare fin troppo).
Ma, se seguire il filo narrativo è talvolta complicato, la storia si dimostra effervescente e, quanto meno, curiosa: l'epopea dei Gursky ci conferma che Richler è un grande scrittore, che sa strappare sorrisi (amari e non) in quantità. E se la lettura è spesso...more
Well, I stopped half-way through which I rarely do. This book was too complex to put down and pick up as much as I found myself doing and why was I doing that anyway? Well, it was too boring in some ways and too fantasical in others. I tried reading another Mordechai Richler novel in the past that I put down, too and couldn't remember why until I tried to read this one. It was just not my style. I'm sad that I didn't like it because so many Canadians revere this writer. Maybe someday I'll pick u...more
About an alcoholic Montréal writer, Moses Berger, who is obsessed with the family of one of his neighbors growing up-- the Gurskys. They started their general store out on the prairie, then bought some hotels, then smuggled liquor during prohibition, and then became whisky barons after prohibition was repealed. The book is basically the story of Moses's quest to write a biography of the most elusive and intriguing Gursky brother-- Solomon. It's a great story, although its hard to follow for the...more
The first time I read this book (about 10 years ago) I hated it. I found it very confusing and had to struggle to finish it. This time around (perhaps b/c I had vague memories of it) I was able to keep the characters straight (about 80% of the time) and better appreciate the complex relationships. The book covers many time periods and various relatives of the Gursky family and give some insight into the priviliged world of upper class Montrealers as well as the hard life of the people who settle...more
rimandato a un altro momento.
non sono tempi adatti a richler.
i tempi adatti sono arrivati e non potevo smettere di leggere questa storia avventurosa della famiglia gursky, dall'inghilterra al canada passando per l'estremo nord. la ricchezza, il potere, l'ebraismo,i segreti di famiglia, il misterioso e inafferrabile solomon e tutto un contorno di personaggi vivissimi che si muovono, s'intersecano, s'intrecciano. grande, grande mordecai richler.
This is *the* essential Canadian novel. It tells the story of old and new worlds, the established cities of Montreal and unsettled West, of Canada's immigrants and multi-ethnic identity. It deals with the glamourous, the notorious, and even the mundane. This book is often overlooked (more because of the author's reputation than anything else), but is accessible and challenging to any of level of reader. I cannot recommend this book enough.
started out as 4 stars, ended up as 3. richler is a great storyteller, no doubt. unfortunately, for me, it didn't go beyond great storytelling. when i read the last page it left me a little empty - i felt i had gone a long way for a fairly obvious resolution and a punch line. one aspect that almost tipped my rating back to 4 stars was richler's political statement made by having jews become a part of the landscape of the far north.
Well, this is probably The Great Canadian Novel.

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Mordecai Richler, was a Canadian author, screenwriter and essayist.

His best known works are The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz (1959) and Barney's Version (1997); his 1989 novel Solomon Gursky Was Here was shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize in 1990. He was also well known for the Jacob Two-Two children's stories. .

The son of a Jewish scrap yard dealer, Richler was born in 1931 and raised on St...more
More about Mordecai Richler...
The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz Barney's Version Jacob Two-Two Meets the Hooded Fang St. Urbain's Horseman Joshua Then and Now

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“Mr. Bernard died on a Monday, at the age of seventy-five, his body wasted. He lay in state for two days in the lobby of the Bernard Gursky Tower and, as he failed to rise on the third, he was duly buried.” 8 likes
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