Impossible Nation: The Longing for Homeland in Canada and Quebec


175 pages
Contains Bibliography
ISBN 1-55128-033-7
DDC 306.4'46'0971





Reviewed by Terry A. Crowley

Terry A. Crowley is an associate professor of history at the University
of Guelph, and the author of Agnes Macphail and the Politics of


This exploration of identities in Quebec and the rest of Canada by Globe
and Mail arts critic Ray Conlogue extends and deepens Michael
Ignatieff’s exploration of nationalism and the sense of belonging.
History, literature, theatre, and film represent the principal terrain
that Conlogue considers in what is ultimately a lopsided and deeply
pessimistic analysis of the Canadian psyche.

The book follows such predecessors as André Siegfried’s The Race
Question in Canada (1906), André Laurendeau’s La crise de la
conscription (1962), and George Grant’s Lament for a Nation (1965).
Conlogue is very good at conveying Quebec’s cultural premises to
anglophone audiences. The history he writes may be potted—and he
misconstrues Voltaire’s famous statement about the futility of two
European nations warring over a few acres of snow—but it nevertheless
presents ideas that will be new to the uninitiated reader.

Borrowing Ignatieff’s distinction between civic and cultural
nationalism and relying on philosopher Charles Taylor’s work, this
book succeeds in forcing readers to think deeply about Canada’s two
principal nations, one defined weakly as a “community of
communities,” the other more confident in its identity. Even if
Conlogue is right in maintaining that Canadians managed to create a
decolonized nation–state just at a time when a viable nationalism
could only be based in a common culture, there is still little reason to
accept his conclusion that the independence of Quebec and the
dissolution of the experiment are inevitable. His failure to distinguish
between official bilingualism and integral bilingualism leads him to
suggest that the solution to Canada’s political battles and linguistic
solitudes lies “in all English Canadians coming to recognize
French.” In the end, Conlogue gets caught in a contradiction,
advocating populist change while failing to see that recourse to
referendums has aggravated the Canadian dilemma; still, one doesn’t
have to share his pessimism in order to learn from it.


Conlogue, Ray., “Impossible Nation: The Longing for Homeland in Canada and Quebec,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed May 30, 2024,