Two siblingtudes

[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.

Read more at Life in Quebec…


About rossmurray1

I'm Canadian so I pronounce it "Aboot." No, I don't! I don't know any Canadian who says "aboot." Damnable lies! But I do know this Canadian is all about humour (with a U) and satire. Come by. I don't bite, or as we Canadians say, "beet."
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8 Responses to Two siblingtudes

  1. Cholera season or swine flu, but there isn’t a book about swine flu, is there?

  2. letizia says:

    Being French, but now living in the U.S. for the past few years, I am quite fascinated by Quebec. Well, to tell you the truth, I’m more familiar with Montreal than the rest of Quebec so I don’t know how well it represents the rest of Quebec (only went to Quebec city for the day). But I loved how in Montreal one could enter one shop and speak French and enter the next shop and speak English. I felt quite at home! Closer to the original Rilke poem, I suppose, but then again, I’m only a tourist…..

    Great post, as always.

    • rossmurray1 says:

      Thanks. Montreal is actually a problem to many of the French-language hardliners in that it’s TOO easy to be served in English, often (they say) easier than being served in French. Most new immigrants move to Montreal (as opposed to, say, La Pocatiere [where?]) and bring with them their own language and a desire to learn the language of their new country. Often that’s English. While we anglos hate the language laws, we do sympathize with the desire to keep Quebec French. We get it. Embrace it, even. We just don’t like the coercive measures. Now you see how conflicted we are. Again, like family… !

  3. Living here in Ottawa, I see the English and French together. Not always happily, but together. I would like to think they would stick up for each other if necessary. Weird though, in Southern Ontario, French almost doesn’t exist, except in schools, sometimes, but never in real life – like McDonald’s LOL.

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