Academic journal article British Journal of Canadian Studies

Duplessis: Son Milieu, Son éPoque

Academic journal article British Journal of Canadian Studies

Duplessis: Son Milieu, Son éPoque

Article excerpt

Xavier Gélinas and Lucia Ferretti (eds), Duplessis: son milieu, son époque (Quebec: Septentrion, 2010), 520 pp. Paper. $39.95. ISBN 978-2-89448-625-2.

Beginning with a preface by Denis Vaugeois, who in 1976 captured Maurice Duplessis's former riding for the Parti Québécois, this collection of 23 essays discusses aspects of the right-wing nationaliste politician who dominated Quebec for a quarter century before his death in 1959. The volume rounds offwith a round table discussion at a fiftieth anniversary conference in 2009, plus research notes on library and archive material. The prevailing theme is that Duplessis was not as bad as his opponents alleged: how could a government that backed rural electrification be dismissed as La Grande Noirceur? Charles-Philippe Courtois blames Cité Libre, the mouthpiece of Pierre Trudeau and Gérard Pelletier, for creating the myth that Duplessis was anti-democratic, an exponent of an immobile nationalism that was rooted in a backward clerical culture. Paradoxically, much of this has been adopted as gospel by separatists, thereby ignoring intellectuals like André Laurendeau whose leftist nationalism reconciled state intervention with Catholic social thinking. True, there are intellectual ambiguities in the labelling of the successor period. Did the Quiet Revolution cause the election of Jean Lesage in 1960, or was it created by reforms introduced by his Liberal government? Either way, as several contributors point out, its roots must lie in the Duplessis years; hence, it is a short step to arguing that his Union Nationale administration paved the way for change. A rare exception is Yves Lever's bleak summary of film censorship: one imported nouvelle vague film sacrificed 86 of its 185 minutes to be screened in Quebec. …

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