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1944 the Year I Learned to Love a German

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Mordecai Richler is mostly known for his participation in Canadian literature. His use of humour and cultural as well as social themes also adds an aspect to his texts. In the article: 1944: The Year I learned to Love a German, cultural and social references, themes such as war and humour will all be emphasized. In: 1944: The Year I Learned to Love a German, cultural and social events are very obvious. For example, Mordecai Richler was raised, and has always lived in a Jewish environment. Without a doubt, his “love” for Germans is not immense: “[…] I devoutly wished every German left on the face of the earth an excruciating death.” These words indicate the war reference between the Jewish culture and the Germans. During that time period, the German army had attempted to exterminate Jewish people which explains his hateful comments about them.

Additionally, during the Second World War, smoking was not yet considered hazardous for your health. It was considered to be a symbol of manhood: “[…] I protested, waving my pipe at them.” Clearly, a thirteen year old boy should not be using a pipe for any means, but in that time period it was socially correct. Finally, Hitler and the Germans had a complete culture of their own: “[…] when Hitler came to power in 1933 he had burned all of Erich Maria Remaque’s books […] Hitler had grasped that novels could be dangerous […]” In fact, they were trying to change the entire world’s culture. They wanted no feelings or memories from the past that could make the population turn against them. Therefore, these are all examples of cultural and social references. Secondly, there are a few themes in Richler’s article, war being one of them.

He speaks about a book he read as a young boy titled: “All Quiet on the Western Front”. This novel tells the story of a German soldier by the name of Paul Baumer, who spent the last moments of his life, fighting for his country during the First World War. Tragedies and horrors are described throughout the book clearly traumatizing little thirteen year old Mordecai Richler and any other young reader: “[…] his face had an expression of calm, as though almost glad the end had come.” A second theme is the power of reading. He affirms: “I never expected that a mere novel, a stranger’s tale, could be dangerous, creating such a turbulence in my life, obliging me to question so many received ideas. About Germans.

About my own monumental ignorance of the world.” In this text, Mordecai Richler shows his readers what books are really about and the reason behind them. He shows us that not everything that we or our country believes in is true. It’s important to know what else goes on in the world, how other cultures and people look at certain situations and not to judge to quickly because they may be right! Finally, Mordecai Richler uses humour often as a way to keep the reader interested. For example, Richler uses humour right off the bat to hook the reader: “Reading was not one of my boyhood passions. Girls, or rather the absence of girls drove me to it. When I was 13 years old, short for my age, more than somewhat pimply, I was terrified of girls.”

Obviously, Mordecai is laughing at himself, a characteristic greatly found in Canadian literature. He may be exaggerating the fact that he was a bit pimply or a bit shy to talk to girls but it starts off his text in a light and more or less positive way. In addition, he says: “Rather than read a novel written by a German, I tuned in to radio soap operas in the afternoons […] I organized a new baseball league for short players who didn’t shave yet […]” Once again, Mordecai Richler is using humour to get his point across. This quotation means that he hates Germans so much, he would rather listen to soap operas (which aren’t a very popular choice with thirteen year olds) and organize a baseball league (he’s laughing at himself for being so short). In conclusion, Mordecai Richler successfully gets his point across time after time using cultural and social references, humour and themes. His article: 1944: The Year I Learned to Love a German is no exception.

Richler, Mordecai. “1944: The Year I Learned to Love a German.” The New York Times, n.p, 2 Feb. 1986. Web. 31 Aug. 2014.

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