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Home Uncategorized Alpha Male, Foul-Mouthed Mystic

Alpha Male, Foul-Mouthed Mystic

John Paul McCarthy
Mystic Trudeau: The Fire and the Rose, by BW Powe, Thomas Allen, 256 pp, Can$26.95, ISBN: 978-0887622816 In between the score-settling and the many three-bottle two-hour lunches of yore that suffuse his memoir Palimpsest, Gore Vidal took the time to recall an afternoon spent in the company of George Santayana. Amid the collapsing scenery of the Duce’s Italy, he went to see the reclusive scholar in his cell at the convent of the Blue Nuns on the Celian hill in Rome. After getting past the ferocious doorkeeper – these were Irish nuns after all – the philosopher lectured his visitor on the big themes of their unhappy century. As becomes clear on the first page of his book, Vidal was a brat, doubly cursed with a deep mind and an equally deep well of testosterone. And yet his default expression, the knowing sneer, died on his lips that day and he found that Santayana’s writings could still catch him unawares a half century later. He quotes him with care: Nationalism is at once interior and exterior, or political; how can Italian, Balkan, Irish or Zionist Americans combine in an entity between the two? It is the difficulty of realising either of these ideals that seems to me to make nationality a problem rather than a solution. As an obituary notice for the soiled and battered twentieth century, this aperçu will do just nicely. All of the major politicians in the postwar world would feel the lash of this insight, none more decidedly so than Pierre Elliott Trudeau, arguably the most peculiar of statesmen among the developed nations of the West after 1945. Canadian prime minister from 1968 to 1979 and again from 1980 to 1984, Trudeau died in 2001 and yet retains an extraordinary hold over the collective Canadian imagination. Widely considered the equal of titans like Laurier and King at home, and an alpha male in the international arena who easily outshone rivals like Pearson or Borden, this most peculiar of postwar chief executives remains always and everywhere just out of reach. Books continue to pour off the presses. The first professional biography is half-way to completion, volume one having been published to great fanfare last year. Trudeau remains central to Canada’s modern constitutional travails, the great brooding presence during the 1995 referendum in Quebec which brought the country to the brink of formal disintegration. His ghostly yet enduring appeal is a complex…



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