Opening Night in Quebec City

Chatting this morning with Simon Jacobs, the energetic executive director of the Morrin Centre in Quebec City, where the second annual imagiNation festival will take place this week. I’m participating in the Opening night event, Wednesday, April 13th (7 p.m., 44, Chaussée des Écossais) with guest of honour Roch Carrier.

Simon will be the host, so we were talking about the format and the questions he will be asking Roch and me, exploring points we might have in common. Not easy, that last bit, given Roch’s eminence.

Roch is the author of a string of classics, starting with La Guerre, Yes Sir ! (1968), which made not only his name but also that of his audacious translator, Sheila Fischman, who dared to use French in an English book. The Hockey Sweater (1984) has become one of the defining books of Canadian children’s literature, and his recent titles include Les Moines de la Tour (2004), a novel of the Twin Towers – and of the village tower of his youth. He has also devoted a lot of his time to activities other than writing, serving as head of the Canada Council for the Arts and as Canada’s National Librarian, no less.

I haven’t written any classics, nor have I headed up any national institutions, but I do have this much in common with Roch: I too have spent a lot of my time on activities other than writing.

Talking to Simon, I found myself thinking about my need, while I was a Blue Metropolis, to find more time to write. I wondered if Roch had ever had the same wish. Perhaps we will find out on Wednesday.

But it isn’t all or nothing, with writing. There’s always going to be something else that takes up a big chunk of your life. It isn’t essential, or perhaps even desirable, to focus solely on writing.

Writing takes place in a context, after all. That context can be the literary milieu, which is the inspiration for my most recent book, Writing in the Time of Nationalism (2010). It can be the broader cultural world. It can be family relationships or an enclave of refugees, an online community of writers, a bygone world on board a battleship, a future world on a distant planet, or some mix of two or three or more.

Whatever the context, some of it may be imagined, some remembered, some invented, and some documented fact. We write out of a certain place and time and situation, and we have to live that, whatever it is.

After a preliminary reading, Simon will sit Roch and me down to talk about “Culture: A Source of Tension or Cohesion?” If you’re in Quebec City, do stop by. I’ll be one of the judges of a student writing competition on Thursday, April 14; the winners will be announced during a VIP cocktail 5-7 p.m. that evening. And I’ll be signing books at La Maison Anglaise stand at the Salon international du livre de Québec at 1 p.m. Thursday -- ou j'espère voir mes amis du milieu francophone.

The festival continues through April 17. I'm looking forward to getting together with the other festival participants: Todd Denault, Sheree Fitch, Paul Kropp, Rabindranath Maharaj, Andrew Potter, Ami Sands Brodoff, Claire Holden Rothman, Alexander MacLeod, Nigel Thomas, Charles H. Mountford and John Whitt. As I mentioned to Gregory McCormick when he emailed me just now about Blue Metropolis (about which more next week), I just love being invited to festivals – and not having to organize them myself.

Linda Leith


Page 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12

More articles

Speaking of Books, by Ann Charney

Stories will still need to be told, and writers will continue to tell them. It’s not unreasonable to assume that the written word will persist, even if it’s in ways we can scarcely imagine.

Encyclopaedia Britannica, 11th edition
Mind the Gap, part II, by Kenneth Radu

Not long ago I saw the extraordinary Marlene Dietrich in Shanghai Express, a Josef von Sternberg movie with wonderful black and white cinematography, much of which occurs on a train. In the film Dietrich utters the magnificent line, “it took more than one man to change my name to Shanghai Lily.” Presumably not all on the train, but one is allowed to imagine so.

Marylebone Station, London

Bravo to CALQ on its Forum on Quebec writing -- with an aside

I find myself wondering if there might be a storytelling session for children in English one of these days -- an Heure du conte en anglais. All of which is reason to be encouraged by the organization of the Forum itself -- and by the evident care taken to be inclusive.

Riding da Riddim: The Culcha Dancehall Clash I, by Maurie Alioff

Reggae music linked up to the anti-colonial, back-to Africa, enlightenment-seeking Rastafari movement that originated in the 1930’s. It became the only widely popular recent music to transmit religious and political beliefs, and many other outgoing messages. Jah-struck roots reggae (or “culture,” pronounced “culcha”) works like gospel music.