It’s bound to be one of the most anxiously awaited Canadian biographies of all time: a planned two-volume exploration of Pierre Elliott Trudeau’s extraordinary life by an author who’s been promised access to the late prime minister’s private papers and the full cooperation of his family. The writer, University of Waterloo history professor John English, seems uniquely
qualified for the task. He was a Liberal MP from 1993 to 1997, and is an acclaimed biographer, with a two-volume life of Lester B. Pearson already to his credit.
English told Maclean's that he worked out an agreement last winter that will let him read personal documents and interview key personalities. Trudeau’s son Sacha, 29, handled discussions on behalf of the family. But the landmark project, which will be published by Alfred A.
Knopf Canada-the Random House division run by Louise Dennys, long one of the country’s most influential editors-has yet to be officially announced.
While he has barely begun his research, it’s a good bet that English will be broadly sympathetic to Trudeau-although not blind to his foibles. “I’d say his personality, quick to anger and careless in personal relations, caused problems,” he says. “But he had enormous capac-
ity and range; he was among the most talented and the best of us.” Admiring though he may be of his subject, English says his will not be an “authorized” biography. He has gained insider access without giving up any control of what he ultimately writes. Trudeauphiles will have to be patient about learning what English discovers. He expects Vol. 1, which will carry the epic up to the early 1970s, to be published in 2005.
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