Starting April 24 and running until May 2, the spring programming of the 23rd Blue Metropolis International Literary Festival will be in full swing, along with the TD-Blue Metropolis Children’s Festival. Online and later outdoors, more than 50 eclectic events with 200 artists will delight eyes and minds around the theme, The Challenges of Our Times. Free multilingual events in English, French, Spanish, Portuguese and Arabic take the form of captivating panels, debates and interviews. Events are added daily and will remain online. “This very special edition of the festival is presented during a pandemic which isn’t letting up, but which has not got the better of our great energy and our endless will,” said William St-Hillaire, Blue Metropolis Executive and Artistic Director. When literature rhymes with pleasure, literacy with discovery, and books with hooked… (sort of), you know Blue Metropolis is about to start. Here’s a taste of what’s in store
Seven lauded literary prizes and accompanying interviews, including those from last year’s cancelled festival, will be awarded: Blue Metropolis Words to Change Prize to novelist Nathacha Appanah (France/Mauritius); Blue Metropolis First Peoples’ Literary Prize to writer Richard Van Camp (Canada); Blue Metropolis Sciences and Literature Prize to economist Thomas Piketty (France); Blue Metropolis Violet Literary Prize to writer André Roy (Quebec); 2020 Premio Metropolis Azul to novelist Gioconda Belli (Nicaragua), 2021 Premio Metropolis Azul Prize to novelist Javier Cercas (Spain); and Blue Metropolis/Conseil des arts de Montréal Diversity Prize to writer Nicholas Dawson (Quebec/Chile).
The exciting new Headline Events series brings together internationally-renowned authors from around the world to take on a wide variety of issues for 8 thought-provoking interview/discussions. David Bradford, associate programming coordinator is thrilled how the 2021 program thoughtfully engages the many crises people find themselves in. “We find ourselves at crossroads at this time—culturally, economically, environmentally and politically—and this year’s perspectives and exchanges converge on the past, present and future of what can and must change.” Not to be missed is African philosopher Souleymane Bachir Diagne (Senegal/France/US) on post-colonial memories; David Grossman, one of Israel’s greatest living writers, on the added threat posed during the pandemic to democracies by racism, fundamentalism and other forces; journalist and essayist Carl Honoré (Canada) in praise of ‘slow’; novelists Hanan Al-Shaykhand Hoda Barakat reflecting on their wounded Lebanon; author Mathieu Lindon (France) on Hervé Guibert, contemplating whether writers ever really die; Indigenous authors Kim Scott (Australia), Gregory Scofield (Canada) and Devon A. Mihesuah (US) on the intersection of art and activism; queer authors Mattilda Bernstein Sycamoreand Randa Jarrar (US) delving into each other’s work; and musician and icon Caetano Veloso (Brazil) evoking his Bahia roots, the Portuguese language, and the joys of composing.
For Ingrid Bejerman, curator of Azul,the festival’s Spanish and Portuguese-language programming, this year is the best ever, “With two Azul Prize winners plus none other than the legendary Caetano Veloso in conversation with the great Portuguese journalist Alexandra Lucas Coelho, we’ve got our hispanophone and lusophone readers covered. Nothing replaces la calidez of being in the same room with fellow readers and our worshipped writers, but we have created digital content that is engaging and dynamic. Being a Brazilian otimista, I can’t wait to be virtually joined by readers and fans from all over the world. ¡Maravilloso!”
Fresh points of view
Along with the Dreams and Peace Forum which showcases ten authors talking about tomorrow’s emergencies and today’s tranquillity, there are two more series of riveting events where readers and thinkers can expect a selection of poets, essayists and, at every turn, fascinating discussions.
Converging Perspectives and Conversations zones in on ‘the challenges of our times’ theme. Compelling topics are: live theatre in Montreal post COVID-19; Buried in Time, a literary conversation between poets Judy Quinn and Anne Michaels about mourning and love; an intergenerational dialogue on literary experimentation with Gail Scott and Céleste Godin; and the art of reconnecting with nature with a focus on nature writing, ecology and voluntary simplicity, as part of the SLOW series. The popular Jerusalem of the Mind roundtable will again break with engrained divisions of the Middle East to bring together Palestinian and Israeli authors. “Now in its fourth year, this April’s event features authors Ayelet Gundar-Goshen, Ayelet Waldman and Ala Hlehel, and journalist Amjad Iraqi, with host Jospeh Rosen, in a must-see highly challenging and stimulating discussion. In past years, this event drew a packed house. This year, since it’s online, there won’t be a seating problem!” said program curator Shelley Pomerance.
Other Encounters is where a variety of 25 literary events await, ranging from panels, debates and interviews to book launches and literary performances. Worth checking out among many more is a theatrical and musical performance based on the works of the great Lebanese poet Kahlil Gibran; The Violet Hour LGBTQ reading series; Irish music and literature straight from Dublin; the Indigenous Voices Awards finalists unveiled; All People Share the Same Rights, on empowering marginalized communities in Montreal and the Middle East; and book launches including Linda Leith’s new book The Girl from Dream City ; Quebec Writers’ Federation’s Chronicling the Days about life under lockdown; new Latin American literature; and Linda Leith Publishing’s 2021 titles.
For kids, parents and grandparents
Festive Weekends, April 24-25 and May 1-2, will be on offer as part of the TD-Blue Metropolis Children’s Festival which now runs year-round. The weekends will feature Marie-Andrée Arsenault, winner of the 2020 Harry Black Award; Erin Bow, winner of the 2019 Governor General’s Award (English); Jacques Goldstyn, winner of the 2020 TD Award; Amélie Dumoulin, finalist for the 2020 TD Award; and Geneviève Guilbault, Virginia Pesemapeo Bordeleau, and Jan Thornhill, whose renown precedes her. There will also be podcasts on lessening anxiety in teens, as well as the second Daycare Day on April 16, both part of the Blue Metropolis Foundation’s 2021 educational programming.
After enjoying the online programming, people can head outside for literary podcasts. Beginning May 20, six eye-opening walking tours will have small groups following in the footsteps of authors, artists and actors. Walk. Discover. Listen. Read. Dream… all outdoors. Springtime and literature prevails at Blue Metropolis.
To view the complete program: bluemetropolis.org/2021festival/
Blue Metropolis Foundation is a not-for-profit organization founded in 1997 that brings together people from different cultures to share the pleasures of reading and writing, and encourages creativity and intercultural understanding. The Foundation produces the annual, multilingual Blue Metropolis International Literary Festival, one of the largest in North America, and offers a wide range of educational and social programs year-round, both in classrooms and online, to encourage academic perseverance and fight against poverty and social isolation.