on August 17, 2013
Just finished this book, and I found it very interesting. The Nemnis do an excellent job detailing Trudeau's evolution from the narrow Quebec nationalism and clericalism of his youth into the Trudeau we came to know later, and illustrate the strong influence that several educators had on him. The stories of his battles against the church and the Duplessis regime are fascinating. Some readers may find it a bit too detailed, but the book is a good complement to John English's biography as well as Trudeau's own writings.
While I like English's "Citizen of the World" with respect to what it says about Trudeau becoming a genuine cosmopolitan throughout his life, I don't think it effectively addresses how he intellectually acquired those ideas that made him sensitive and aware to life outside his early privileged existence. That task is left to the Nemnis, a well-qualified husband-and-wife academic partnership, to research, analyse, and compile in "Trudeau Transformed". This book, as a sequel to "Young Trudeau", strives to look at how Trudeau of the 1940s suddenly became an individual who gradually acquired a well-tested body of thought and theory that would eventually help transform his homeland of Quebec from a parochial backwater into a modern democratic state. In those early days, he is viewed as a person of many conflicting views that arise from an inner struggle to find what actually works for the greater good of society: law and order, personal freedom, or both. It is through this greening process that we see Trudeau become a nimble thinker, a keen observer, an acerbic writer, and a formidable political activist. By being granted full access to the extensive Trudeau archives, the Nemnis have provided their readers with a clearer picture of who this enigmatic and often paradoxical character in Canadian history really was. A stint at Harvard exposed him to the more liberal dynamics of Keynesian economic theory that challenged his earlier safe reliance on the traditional authority of the state to lead and direct. Out of this learning experience came a Trudeau who was hungry to extend his political and social learning curve in other world cities like Paris, London, Berlin, Jerusalem, and Delhi. During these times, he was venturing into a very unsafe and unsettled world that was looking to move away from the old imperial mindset and towards a more just and democratic system. It is here that we see a footloose Trudeau trying to break his patrician ties and become a man of the people as he travelled the globe. He was obviously looking for a much larger stage on which to work out his newly acquired ideals of socialism, liberalism, personalism, and federalism. The second part of the book covers Trudeau's return to Quebec to share his new-found beliefs and help lead the opposition against a tyrannical government and a reactionary church. For Trudeau, the struggle to bring about liberating change is always born out of a compelling need to respect both the role of institutions and the rights of the common man. The fifties and early sixties became a period in his life when he challenged every traditional concept of government in an effort to make them more responsive to the needs of everyday Canadians. In the end, this tension was best resolved for Trudeau with the adoption of the federalist model that granted Quebeckers the best chance to be heard as part of a country and a homeland. I recommend this study for anyone who wants a more complete assessment as to what Trudeau did to become a great Canadian. An in-depth reading of this book should remove any notions that he was a social snob who opportunistically latched on to an ideology to grab power.