Following from an earlier American tradition of The Rise of David Levinsky by Abraham Cahan, The Education of Hyman Kaplan by Leo Rosten and The Adventures of Augie March by Saul Bellow, The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz chronicles the emergence, here in a comic vein, of its young hero from Montreal's Jewish ghetto. Born on the wrong side of the tracks with a rusty spoon in his mouth and the spark of rebellion about him, Duddy races across those tracks and rebels against all forms of silver-spooned authority. In his persistent drive towards entrepreneurial triumph he frequently has to retrace his steps, double-cross his friends, and trip up anyone who stands in his way, lest he himself be tripped up by a society that blocks his path at every turn.
Captivated by his grandfather's dictum that 'a man without land is nobody', Duddy's obsession to own land leads to his possession as if by a dybbuk*, by the wandering soul not only of his uncle and grandfather, but of all his ghettoised European ancestors denied ownership of land.
With this guiding force underpinning his every act, Duddy leaves an ignominious school career behind and lunges with vulgarian force towards entrepreneurship and economic power.
Beginning humbly by fleecing guests with a roulette wheel while working in a Catskills mountain resort, Duddy enters the film business, employing a gin-soaked director to record Montreal's various barmitzvah celebrations. The ensuing films, studies in comparative tribal initiations, complete with African circumcision ceremonies, are declared 'a most edifying experience' by a bemused Rabbi and with the money earned from this venture, Duddy pursues the real estate around a magnificent lake with dreams of running his own resort.
Diversifying all the time, from pinball machines to film rental and distribution, Duddy gains control of the land with...