|Photo by Bonnie-Jean Campbell|
As set out in an article by his son, Jacob Richler, in Macleans magazine the library was in the family country home at Lake Memphremagog in Quebec’s Eastern Townships:
His top-floor office there was vast and airy, spread out behind an enormous picture window four frames wide that afforded a perfect vantage of the length of Sargent’s Bay. Had you seen it you would likely have assumed that the glorious view had much to do with the comfort and serenity he found working there. But really it was about the peace and quiet. The view was secondary. A closer look at the place revealed that his desk faced away from the window; when his gaze lifted from his typewriter he saw only a wall of books.
The desk, shown in the photo above, was not a beautiful piece of furniture. He had such a magnificent antique desk in Montreal. The desk at the lake, where he wrote his books, was made by the handyman for the cottage who built it from unfinished pine.
The library had been assembled from books Richler brought to Canada when he returned from England in 1972, books he purchased for research and personal reading, books that he received as gifts but the largest number of books in the collection were books he had been asked to review. He was a book reviewer for GQ magazine and a judge of the Book-of-the-Month Club.
His son sets out how the library came to dominate their country home:
New shelves filled out the basement. They wound their way through my mother’s new study and through her kitchen. They spread through the living room, framing the fireplace and staircase. They came to cover at least one wall in each of our bedrooms. They were installed to fill three massive walls of my father’s office—with a few stand-alone units in between. And as the coup de grâce, one summer when my brother Noah went away on an ill-timed trip, my father annexed his bedroom, had the wall that separated it from the neighbouring study removed, lined both rooms with floor-to-ceiling bookshelves and created a library in their place.
His widow wanted the library preserved and Concordia, which he had attended when it was Sir George Williams University, agreed to take the collection.
The library was packed in boxes at the lake. An example of the eclectic nature of the library is in Jacob’s list of the contents of one random box:
Book: The Essays, Articles and Reviews of Evelyn Waugh
Pamphlet: “Footloose in Yellowknife”
Magazines: Saturday Night, Maclean’s, Signature, The New Yorker, The Oldie, Cité Libre, Snooker Scene, Equinox, The Paris Review and Climax: The Journal of Sexual Perfection
Giller prize sculpture
Periodicals: The New York Review of Books, the New York Times Book Review, Out in the Mountains, Vermont’s newspaper for lesbians, gay men and bisexuals.
Paper flyer: “Gathering Jewish Lesbian Daughters of Holocaust Survivors”
Baltic Shipping Company menu for Aleksandr Pushkin, notes by MR on the back
The approximately 5,000 items will take up two rooms at Concordia.
In reading the story of the new reading room I was reminded of the Arthur Conan Doyle Room at the Toronto Central Reference Library which I described in my post on Canadian Sherlockian, Hartley R. Nathan.
Each room looks to be an inviting place for readers of Richler and Doyle to visit and learn of the authors.