Tuesday, July 1, 2014 |
When it was published in 1945, Hugh MacLennan's iconic novel instantly became a symbol of one of Canada's most challenging dichotomies: the divide between French and English. The Tallard family stands in for the entirety of Canada: Athanase Tallard is born of an aristocratic French-Canadian tradition, while his beautiful wife Kathleen is of Irish heritage. Their son Paul, meanwhile, must reconcile the conflicting interests in his blood -- he is at home speaking both French and English, but feels alienated from both cultures...and he is struggling to write a novel that will help define his Canadian identity.
Two Solitudes won the Governor General's Award for fiction in 1945, and went on to become a classic work about Canadian identity. It was a finalist in Canada Reads 2013, when it was defended by Jay Baruchel.
From the book:
"Nowhere has nature wasted herself as she has here. There is enough water in the Saint Lawrence alone to irrigate half of Europe, but the river pours right out of the continent into the sea. No amount of water can irrigate stones, and most of Quebec is solid rock. It is as though millions of years back in geologic time a sword had been plunged through the rock from the Atlantic to the Great Lakes and savagely wrenched out again, and the pure water of the continental reservoir, unmuddied and almost useless to farmers, drains untouchably away. In summer the cloud packs pass over it in soft, cumulus, pacific towers, endlessly forming and dissolving to make a welter of movement about the sun. In winter when there is no storm the sky is generally empty, blue and glittering over the ice and snow, and the sun stares out of it like a cyclops' eye."
From Two Solitudes by Hugh MacLennan ©1945. Published by New Canadian Library.