Hugh MacLennan believed Canadian stories were worth writing and sharing, and paved the way for Canadian literature. In his 1945 classic, Two Solitudes, tensions between Canada's 20th century English and French population come to life as the novel follows a blended family struggling to reconcile their identities in Quebec. Athanese Tallard is a French-Canadian politician working to bring the two sides together and married to an Irish woman named Kathleen. His son Marius is protective of his French-Canadian culture while the younger Tallard brother, Paul, is exposed to both worlds and wrestles to find a Canadian cultural identity.
Hugh MacLennan was born in Glace Bay, Nova Scotia in 1907. He received a degree in Classics at Dalhousie University, another B.A. and a Masters as a Rhodes Scholar at Oxford University, and eventually a PhD in Classics at Princeton University. He eventually moved to Montreal in 1935 to teach Latin and History at Lower Canada College, and later taught at McGill University for three decades. He published nine novels and won the Governor General's Award five times, including one for Two Solitudes in 1945. MacLennan died in Montreal in 1990.
In a 1972 interview with CBC's Distinguished Canadians program, MacLennan tells John David Hamilton about how little contact he had with French-Canadians when he wrote Two Solitudes. He was living in Montreal and at the time, his 1959 novel The Watch That Ends the Night was a bestseller. We pulled the interview from the CBC Digital Archives which you can watch in the player above. Jay Baruchel is defending Two Solitudes during the Canada Reads debates February 11-14.