Two Solitudes

Two Solitudes, by Hugh MACLENNAN (Toronto, New York and Des Moines, 1945), is a novel whose title has become emblematic of Canada's most troubling legacy: the relations between English and French Canadians. Using historical settings within a mythological framework, MacLennan explores the tensions in these relations from WWI to 1939. The French Canadian realities are set in the parish of Saint-Marc-des-Érables, which is dominated by its priest, Father Beaubien, and by Athanase Tallard, a powerful but tragic figure ostracized by his church for trying to industrialize the village. Montréal, on the other hand, is dominated by characters such as Huntley McQueen, a Presbyterian businessman from Ontario. Tallard's son Paul, at home in both languages but alienated from both cultures, embarks on an Odyssean quest for his own identity and for a vision of Canada as he struggles to write a novel which will define his own Canadian experience. It has been translated into French, as Deux solitudes (Paris, 1963), and Spanish, Swedish, Czech, Dutch and Estonian.