Oh Canada! Oh Quebec!: Requiem for a Divided Country Paperback – Mar 11 1992
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From Publishers Weekly
Novelist-screenwriter Richler, a native of Montreal, predicts a mass exodus of English speakers if a majority of Quebecers opt for independence from Canada in an October 1992 referendum, creating a separate, debt-ridden, predominantly French-speaking nation. If the separatists win, it will be a sad day for Canada, he asserts in this scathing critique of the Francophone Quebecois nationalist movement. Far from being oppressed, he declares, the French-speaking Quebecers constitute a privileged, xenophobic group that promotes divisiveness and imposes absurdly restrictive laws designed to preserve French as the language of the workplace and public discourse. Recalling his upbringing in a working-class Jewish community, Richler charges that from its inception French-Canadian nationalism has been tainted by racism and anti-Semitism. This is a profound, disturbing look at a crisis that could give birth to the world's 18th-largest country. BOMC altenate.
Copyright 1992 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
From Kirkus Reviews
Quebec-born Richler (Solomon Gursky Was Here, 1990, etc.) undertakes a backgrounder to that province's independence movement, with several large flashes of illuminating absurdity about the passionate Quebecois. A referendum will be held this October to determine whether Quebec should ask for independence from Canada. The province has already added a raft of debatable laws to its books, such as one that forbids English-language or bilingual commercial signs on Montreal's streets. Today, Richler tells us, wary shopkeepers welcome customers ``in a fail-safe combination of English and French, singing out, `Hi, bonjour.' '' Moreover, zealots who run Montreal's French Catholic school board shocked even separatists ``with a demand that immigrant students who were caught shooting the breeze in English in the schoolyards should be severely punished.'' And so it goes, with even intellectual Francophones as blinkered and narrow-minded as peasants in a Marcel Pagnol comedy. Actually, Richler explains, 40 percent of Canadians are of neither French nor English extraction; they are of Polish, Greek, Ukrainian, and Italian descent, with growing Chinese, Sikh, African, and Central American enclaves, who will soon form a majority of Canada's populace. Richler also laments Canada's ``functional but nondescript'' cities, the demolition of its oldest buildings and their replacement by entrenched ugliness of ``the utmost banality.'' He offers a lively description of the Mohawk Indians' uprising against the incursion of a golf course into their burial grounds--an uprising that forced a mortified Quebec to call in the Canadian army--and he sees independence as diminishing Quebec into ``being a folkloric society. A place that people come from. Ireland without that country's genius or terrible beauty.'' Unlike most of Richler, largely for Canadians; for a look at Canada that's more accessible to those south of the border, try Jan Morris's O Canada (p. 307). -- Copyright ©1992, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.See all Product Description
Top Customer Reviews
Richler - one of Canada's great novelists and writers - demonstrates his sly and caustic wit with this book. It has infuriated his opponents of course (especially the separatists and their supplicants), but Richler always demonstrates an honest courage to say what many were (and still are) afraid to say. The insular, xenophobic nature of the Quebecois separatists is a particularly hot target for Richler.
Admittedly, his charges of Quebec anti-semitism seem to go on too long in this book, and he tends to extrapolate from an older generation to modern times a little too easily. Richler also misses the anti-semitism that's been part of Canada as a whole, and thus overemphasizes Quebec's anti-semitism. He thus ironically mimics some of the narrowness he accuses the Quebecois of displaying.
Nevertheless, most of his other charges hit the mark, especially those aimed at the almost child-like language laws and enforcement policies that have pervaded Quebec in the last 30 years or so.
In the end, Oh Canada, Oh Quebec! is a worthwhile part of Canada's political history. I recommend it.
Troy Parfitt is the author of Why China Will Never Rule the World
There were times I was almost shocked at what appeared to be anger or maliciousness in some areas though to be honest I can't recall specifics. I didn't have to force myself to finish but it was something of a chore.