For this issue, Noah Richler wove a meditation on his father’s memory into an account of the filming of Barney’s Version in Montreal. Noah trailed Dustin Hoffman and Paul Giamatti as the actors went though their paces, but at every turn he was met with melancholy memories of Mordecai. It seemed best to directly evoke the man for the cover: he should look us right in the eye, and he should probably be smoking one of his Davidoff cigarillos. It was clear when he was alive, and now in retrospect, that Mordecai Richler was one of Canada’s greatest writers — and yet there are only so many suitable portraits of him to choose from.
Photo archives are as interesting for what they leave out as for what they keep. The totality of the world is such that there is no way that even a tiny fraction of what happens is recorded on film or CCD, but most archive images make you wonder about the moment just before or just after those they actually record.
But not so with this image of Mordecai. It was obvious that this was the right image the moment I saw it in the Toronto Star’s archive. It hits you right between the eyes. Although there are images of him that are crisper or more finessed, this portrait, shot by the Polish-Canadian photographer Andrew Stawicki in 1990, is Karsh-like in its perfection.