W. Donald Wilson and Paul G. Socken’s translation of Aaron, by Québécois author Yves Thériault, 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 Thériault’s finest novel, Aaron is a parable of our modern world and a poignant cautionary tale.
"A literary masterpiece, Aaron, a heartbreaking novel about tradition versus modernity by later French-Canadian author Yves Thériault, was recently translated into English. ...`The beauty of the book is in its balance,' [Paul] Socken [who translated it] explains. `I think Thériault 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
"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
"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 Thériault'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 Thériault, the inexorable movement of the city offers a redeeming wisdom against the pervading melancholy of tradition. This excellent translation of a major Thériault novel is indeed a gentle and timely invitation to reconstruct the complex landscapes of our cultural nodernity. "- François Paré, University of Waterloo