For a Literary Salon
21 February 2012

This salon is born of an insight confirmed a thousand times, that literature is at the heart of life – is indeed life itself, its force and inspiration. Literature nourishes life as well as being nourished by it. Yet the pollen it generously spreads merely drifts over society without truly germinating. How do we know this? Consider the stories in today’s political and social news and the mythsthey rest on. How many characters from novels we run into every day. How many films owe their stories to a literary work. Many television programmes would be nothing without their secret sources found in books. Many installations, performances, and works of art that are generative or participatory or what have you are rooted in an unconscious literary source. Unconscious or unspoken, sometimes unspeakable.

Salon .ll. editorial directors Annie Heminway and Ève Pariseau, October 2011.

Literature frightens people. Schools are not always aware of all its richness or its pedagogical opportunities. At home, flat-screen televisions have the place of honour. People in a hurry refuse to devote time to literature, and it intimidates people who are less educated. Which does not prevent books from being an economic force, a paradox that is disputed by the giants of the digital age. Literature has had bad press. In newspapers and on television, it is treated with caution, as if it is not really the point, not worth spending time on, even though readers all know how much they owe to books. In the arts section of magazines, literature – when treated at all – receives the least coverage, far behind film, circus arts, music, and the caprices of columnists. Too often ignored or left to its fans, literature is also threatened by resentment. There are too many books, too many aspiring writers, too few readers, too few critics with any kind of authority, far too much junk, too much illiteracy – these all are frequent complaints. And yet it seems to us that literature has never thrived as much as now, when it has all but disappeared from sight.  

This is what you will see, dear reader of this salon, should you wish to linger here and open your eyes. Here, on this site designed like a theatre with multiple stages, the secret role of literature will be unveiled from every angle, including the most direct. Literature is what matters.

@ 2012, Marie-Andrée Lamontagne

Translation @ 2012, Jonathan Kaplansky
See the original French article here.
Photos: Linda Leith

Marie-Andrée Lamontagne is a writer, editor, journalist and translator. Her books include a novel (Vert), a collection of short stories (Entre-monde) and a memoir (La méridienne) published by Leméac. From 1998 to 2003, she was editor of the cultural pages of the Quebec daily Le Devoir, to which she still contributes from time to time. She is currently working on a biography of novelist and poet Anne Hébert (forthcoming from Boréal).

Author Marie-Andrée Lamontagne
[Photo: Martine Doyon]

Jonathan Kaplansky works as a literary translator of French in Montreal. He won a French Voices Award to translate Annie Ernaux’s Things Seen (La vie extérieure). His translations include Days of Sand by Hélène Dorion and Wednesday Night at the End of the World by Hélène Rioux, and he contributed translations to Seminal: The Anthology of Canada’s Gay Male Poets.


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