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Trudeau Transformed: The Shaping of a Statesman 1944-1965    by Max Nemni & Monique Nemni order for
Trudeau Transformed
by Max Nemni
Order:  USA  Can
McClelland & Stewart, 2011 (2011)
Hardcover, e-Book

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* * *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

Having previously read Citizen of the World: The Life of Pierre Elliott Trudeau Volume 1 by John English - and having long admired Trudeau - I opened Trudeau Transformed: The Shaping of a Statesman 1944-1965 (translated from the French by George Tombs) with enthusiasm. The authors are a husband and wife team who also wrote Young Trudeau, which 'followed Pierre Trudeau from kindergarten up to his departure for Harvard University'. They are former university professors who in the 1990s acted as editors of the magazine Cité Libre, one of whose founders was Pierre Elliott Trudeau.

The volume is prefaced by a Trudeau quote: 'The true statesman is not one who gives orders to his fellow-citizens so much as he is one who devotes himself to their service.' The authors go on to describe how Trudeau pursued an education and experience that would allow him to do just that - revealing a rare politician who actually trained for the job! They remind us that Canadians repeatedly elected 'a man offering them a unique vision of Canada' and go on to show how that vision developed - they 'trace his education, the various environments in which he came to maturity, and the influences to which he was subjected.'

It's heavy reading as the authors delve into philosophy, political science, law, economics, and history. They follow in Trudeau's footsteps and analyse all that he studied and wrote, showing how 'This "son of Quebec"' became 'a staunch federalist.' What struck me as I, in turn, tried to follow their reasoning, was what a time he lived in! He left for Harvard in 1944, as World War II was coming to an end, with 'veterans swarming all over the campus.' Many of his professors had 'fled the Nazi threat.' Views he had formed in a Quebec childhood evolved with this wider exposure to the world. In 1946, he studied in a Paris that was recovering from occupation and war.

And in 1947, he enrolled at the London School of Economics in an England in which a 'Labour government revolutionized the social landscape'. There he realized that 'individual liberty acquired its true meaning only when accompanied by equality of opportunity', a concept very relevant to the world today. After 'four years of study in three countries', Trudeau embarked on world travel, 'trying to understand the world's politics'. He returned third class in a boat packed with refugees. Then he began making waves back at home.

The authors address Trudeau's time as a junior civil servant in the Privy Council; his work with Cité Libre; his union activism; his law firm in which he favored 'cases involving personal liberty, human rights, and the defence of workers' rights'; his many articles criticizing 'the dominant ideology of Quebec elites'; his support for striking miners; his 1960 trip to China with Jacques Hébert after which they concluded that 'the real threat is not the Yellow Peril of our nightmares; it is the eventual threat of economic rivalry in the markets of the world'; and his plunge into federal politics in 1965, after which the rest is history.

Trudeau Transformed is a challenging read, and definitely not a quick one. But for anyone who followed his time in politics, and especially for those who admired the man (as so many Canadians did) it's an absorbing one. The authors say it all as they end this volume: 'Whether we revere him or revile him, the fact remains that today's Canada is the Canada of Pierre Elliott Trudeau.'

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