[In Canada, if it weren’t for navel-gazing, there’d be no gazing at all. Here’s a piece on English-French relations from Life in Quebec.]
Dammit, Hugh MacLennan, why’d you have to go and write that book that no one ever reads but everyone refers to knowingly? Why’d you have to give it such a soundbite of a title: Two Solitudes? God knows I love a good book title. I’m sure Love in the Time of Cholera would never have become such a classic if it had been called Look Who’s Cramping! But you, Hugh, you had to pick a title that would become the go-to phrase for all those people who ponder the essence of Canada (and by “all those people” I mean “Canadians”).
Not only has it been overused, it’s been misused. The original sense, in a poem by Rainer Maria Rilke, was one of union, not separation:
Love consists in this,
That two solitudes protect and
Touch and greet each other.
A beautiful sentiment, but inadvisable during cholera season.