Blue Metropolis – Reading still alive: from philosophy to children stories
During the interview with Radio Canada’s Michel Desautels, the winner of this year’s Blue Metropolis International Literary Grand Prix, philosopher Charles Taylor didn’t regret his defeats at various federal elections, when he ran for the NDP. Having been elected to the House of Commons would have interfered with his philosophical work, he said. The interview followed a brief ceremony at the Grande bibliothèque in which Taylor received the distinction with which this most important literary event in Montreal honoured him. During the interview Taylor was asked not only about his political ventures, but also and mostly about his work in the fields of philosophy and political science. A question period with the public also allowed him to expand on issues such as the literary (non-philosophical) books that have impressed him, and the present relevance of philosophy in today’s world, among other topics.
The distinction awarded to Taylor was one of the highlights of the 20th edition of the Blue Metropolis festival which presented a large spectrum of activities related to literary creation in all its genres. The festival also kept and indeed it has strengthened its commitment to the celebration of diversity in literary creativity, not only in Montreal, Quebec, and Canada but also at an international level. And the term diversity, in this case, refers not only to the various literary genres and areas of interest but also to the diverse creators being presented and celebrated at this festival.
This year the Blue Metropolis / Conseil des arts de Montréal Literary Diversity Prize —a distinction created in 2016— was awarded to Alina Dumitrescu. She is a writer who came to Canada 29 years ago, who published in French her novel “Le cimitière des abeilles” a book dealing with “closed borders, the relationship with one’s mother tongue and the language of exile, and the cultural disconnect experienced by children born abroad.”
Sexual diversity in literature was also recognized by instituting for the first time this year the Blue Metropolis Violet Literary Prize, which will honour writers from the LGBTQ community. The prize will alternate each year between a Francophone and an Anglophone author. The award this year went to Quebec writer and lesbian activist Nicole Brossard.
The Blue Metropolis First Peoples Literary Prize (first established in 2015) was given to Lee Maracle, a writer of both fiction and non-fiction works, born in Vancouver and a member of the Stó:lō nation.
The Blue Metropolis Words to Change Prize was awarded to Lebanese author Chariff Majdalani. This prize was introduced in 2015 and is given to “the writer of a literary work that upholds the values of intercultural understanding and social inclusion.”
Argentine journalist and writer of non-fiction works, Leila Guerriero, was the recipient of the Metropolis Azul award, sponsored by Ginny Stikeman. This distinction instituted in 2013, is given to the author of a work that “explores some aspect of Spanish-language culture or history.”
Always on this note of diversity, Blue Metropolis presented this time the series Almemar, devoted to Jewish literature and culture, featuring among others, Ruby Namdar, Ariela Freedman, and Daniel Mendelsohn. Within this series too, the documentary film “Why the Jews” directed by John Curtin was presented, followed by a discussion that attracted many participants. The film —not exempted from controversy— addresses the complex question of why the Jews as a people have been the subject of so much persecution and discrimination. Linked to that question, the relation between that historical phenomenon and the fact that a large number of Jews —disproportionate with regard to its percentage of the world population— have been awarded Nobel Prizes and have reached important achievements in the sciences, the arts, and other fields.
The festival also featured an entire section devoted to children, certainly a vital effort since it may encourage them to engage in the enlightening interest for books, and reading in general, in the end, an essential purpose of events such as this.
Blue Metropolis came to an end this past Sunday leaving the sensation that it was one of its most memorable editions, a reminder to all of us that reading is still very much alive.
Feature image: Shelley Pomerance, Director of the English Programming at the Blue Met, Rabbi Reuben Poupko, Susan Pinker, and John Curtin, director of the documentary “Why the Jews?” during the discussion that followed the screening of the film.