W. Donald Wilson and Paul G. Socken's translation of Aaron, by Qua (c)ba (c)cois author Yves Tha (c)riault, makes this fine novel available in English for the first time. An exploration of "otherness," the story centres on Moishe, an Orthodox Jew and refugee from Russia, who is raising his grandson, Aaron, alone in Montreal, following the deaths of Aaron's parents. Poverty-stricken, Moshe works as a tailor, maintains his strict adherence to Orthodoxy, and educates Aaron to follow in his path. Aaron becomes increasingly estranged from his grandfather's ways, however, and his meeting with the militantly secular Jewish girl Viedna confirms his decision to embrace modernity, secularism, and materialism and to reject his faith entirely. The story portrays a tragically polarized situation in which neither side is able to communicate or to build an alternative world view that incorporates both tradition and modernity. Possibly Tha (c)riault's finest novel, Aaron is a parable of our modern world and a poignant cautionary tale.
Yves Theriault (1915 1983) was one of Quebec's most prolific writers: he wrote more than forty volumes of novels and short stories as well as children's books and more than 1,200 scripts for radio plays and others for television. His works are translated into twenty languages and won many literary awards, including the Governor General's Award in 1960. Donald Wilson joined the faculty of the University of Waterloo in 1970, where he remained until his retirement. A former chair of the Department of French Studies at UW, he is the translator of Denyse Baillargeon's Babies for the Nation and, with Paul G. Socken, of Aaron: A Novel, by Yves Theriault (WLU Press, 2007). Paul G. Socken has been on the faculty of University of Waterloo for thirty-three years. He is a former chair of the Department of French Studies and is the author of seven books and many scholarly articles published in France, Canada, and the United States. His area of specialization is French-Canadian literature.
"A new generation of readers will now be able to read the evocative tale of a Jewish boy and his Orthodox grandfather's becoming irrevocably estranged in multicultural Montreal in the 1950s." -- David Lazarus -- The Canadian Jewish News, November 22, 2007, 200711 "A literary masterpiece, Aaron, a heartbreaking novel about tradition versus modernity by later French-Canadian author Yves Theriault, was recently translated into English....`The beauty of the book is in its balance,' [Paul] Socken [who translated it] explains. `I think Theriault wanted people to see what happens when there's no middle ground. There's right and wrong on both sides.'... `The tragedy is that there was no mediation.... It's a very timely cautionary tale.'" -- Atara Beck -- Jewish Tribune, September 27, 2007, 200709 "What an extraordinary novel this is! Why have we been so oblivious to its striking focus on cultural differences and to the marvel of its street-level urban vibrancy? Light years before Mordecai Richler's St. Urbain Street, and Michel Tremblay's colourful Plateau Mont-Royal, this is Yves Theriault's Montreal, a city of migration and encounters. First published n 1954, Aaron is a prismatic story structured by the intersecting voices of different faiths and different cultural traditions. This is a novel of intense questioning about the future of multicultural societies. For Aaron, Moishe, Malak, Viedna, and the other searching characters created by Theriault, the inexorable movement of the city offers a redeeming wisdom against the pervading melancholy of tradition. This excellent translation of a major Theriault novel is indeed a gentle and timely invitation to reconstruct the complex landscapes of our cultural nodernity." -- Francois Pare, University of Waterloo -- 200709
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