A Canadian author and professor, he is best known for his 1945 novel, Two Solitudes, which illuminates the tension between the English and French regions of Canada. His other novels include Barometer Rising and Each Man's Son.
He studied at both Dalhousie University and Oxford University.
He won five Governor General's Awards and a Royal Bank Award.
He and his sister grew up in Nova Scotia. He married Aline Walker in 1959.
While a professor at McGill University, he taught a young Leonard Cohen.