27 April 09 | Chad W. Post

Montreal’s 11th annual Blue Metropolis (or rather, Metropolis Bleu) took place this last weekend, featuring a huge number of international writers, events, readings, and languages. According to an article in the Montreal Gazette, the Metropolis Bleu Festival was the “world’s first multilingual literary festival.” When it started, events were in French and English, and now they take place in French, English, Spanish, Arabic, Farsi, Italian, and Urdu.

Unfortunately, thanks to my insane travel schedule, I didn’t really have the time/energy to go to any of the main events. I did participate in the “Forum International des Editeurs” though, which was designed to introduce editors from around the world to Quebecois literature and publishing houses.

This forum—which included probably 80 editors, publishing houses, translators, arts administrators, etc.—wasn’t necessarily the best designed gathering I’ve ever attended. It was much too short to really get a sense of the Quebecois publishing scene, and since the “speed dating” section was cut so short, I only had the chance to “date” one other publisher. (Which, as it happens, was probably one of Montreal publishers most relevant to what Open Letter is doing, but still.) Nevertheless, there were a few interesting things that came out of this.

One thing that fascinated me (and here we go with the business of publishing thing again) was how the Francophone and Anglophone publishing scenes in Canada developed completely independent of one another. With few exceptions, publishers publish in either French or English, and depending on which, they use a completely different set of distributors, bookstores, etc. They even belong to different publishers associations (which, of course, are in communication with each other, but are run separately) and the granting mechanisms for foreign publishers interested in translating Canadian/Quebecois books are independent of one another.

It was also interesting to find out that publishing in Canada didn’t really start until the 1960s and 70s. A lot of authors, such as Margaret Atwood and Michael Ondaatje, were involved in the founding of these first publishing houses, many of which still exist today. In some ways this might be due to special protections afforded by the Canadian government to prevent the American publishing industry from taking over. Linda Leith (the organizer of this event and Artistic Director of the Blue Metropolis Foundation) mentioned these protections, which I believe include special government funding for Canadian publishers and other economic benefits. (I’d love to know more about what these “protections” are—if anyone knows, please feel free to leave a comment.)

I hate to say this, but one of the best things about the Forum proper was Erica, our witty interpreter. The event was a bit chaotic, but she did a great job keeping us Anglophiles in the loop and interjecting her own amusing comments. Another fantastic person I had the chance to spend a lot of time with was Alexandre Sanchez, who handles foreign rights for Les Allusifs, one of the coolest of the Quebec publishers and one of the most international.

Alexandre gave me a nice walking tour of Montreal—I finally saw the really hip areas!—and took me to Librairie Gallimard, a spectacular bookshop on Boulevard Saint-Laurent, which used to symbolize the divide between French and English speakers in Montreal, with the French living to the East and the Anglos to the West.

We may well feature Librairie Gallimard as an “Indie Bookstore of the Month” in the not too distant future, so more on the actual store later. In terms of books, they had a very nice selection of titles from both French and Quebecois publishers, including any number of Quebecois writers who have yet to make their way into America. Such as Catherine Mavrikakis whose Le Ciel de Bay City is a finaliste for the Le Prix des libraires du Quebec this year. What really caught my eye about this book though is that I grew up in the smelly little town (thanks Madonna!) of Bay City, Michigan where this novel is set . . . So, to answer the unasked question, yes, we’re definitely publishing it in translation. Mainly to find out how it’s actually possible to write a novel about life in Bay City . . .

Comments are disabled for this article.
The Odyssey
The Odyssey by Homer
Reviewed by Peter Constantine

Now goddess, child of Zeus,
tell the old story for our modern times.

–(The Odyssey, Book I, line 10. Emily Wilson)

In literary translation of works from other eras, there are always two basic tasks that a translator needs. . .

Read More >

I Remember Nightfall
I Remember Nightfall by Marosa di Giorgio
Reviewed by Talia Franks

I Remember Nightfall by Marosa di Giorgio (trans. From the Spanish by Jeannine Marie Pitas) is a bilingual poetry volume in four parts, consisting of the poems “The History of Violets,” “Magnolia,” “The War of the Orchards,” and “The Native. . .

Read More >

Joyce y las gallinas
Joyce y las gallinas by Anna Ballbona
Reviewed by Brendan Riley

This review was originally published as a report on the book at New Spanish Books, and has been reprinted here with permission of the reviewer. The book was originally published in the Catalan by Anagrama as Joyce i les. . .

Read More >

Lost in Translation: An Illustrated Compendium of Untranslatable Words from Around the World
Lost in Translation: An Illustrated Compendium of Untranslatable Words from Around the World by Ella Frances Sanders
Reviewed by Kaija Straumanis

Hello and greetings in the 2017 holiday season!

For those of you still looking for something to gift a friend or family member this winter season, or if you’re on the lookout for something to gift in the. . .

Read More >

The Size of the World
The Size of the World by Branko Anđić
Reviewed by Jaimie Lau

Three generations of men—a storyteller, his father and his son—encompass this book’s world. . . . it is a world of historical confusion, illusion, and hope of three generations of Belgraders.

The first and last sentences of the first. . .

Read More >

Island of Point Nemo
Island of Point Nemo by Jean-Marie Blas de Roblès
Reviewed by Katherine Rucker

The Island of Point Nemo is a novel tour by plane, train, automobile, blimp, horse, and submarine through a world that I can only hope is what Jean-Marie Blas de Roblès’s psyche looks like, giant squids and all.

What. . .

Read More >

The Truce
The Truce by Mario Benedetti
Reviewed by Adrianne Aron

Mario Benedetti (1920-2009), Uruguay’s most beloved writer, was a man who loved to bend the rules. He gave his haikus as many syllables as fit his mood, and wrote a play divided into sections instead of acts. In his country,. . .

Read More >

I Am a Season That Does Not Exist in the World
I Am a Season That Does Not Exist in the World by Kim Kyung Ju
Reviewed by Jacob Rogers

Kim Kyung Ju’s I Am a Season That Does Not Exist in the World, translated from the Korean by Jake Levine, is a wonderful absurdist poetry collection. It’s a mix of verse and prose poems, or even poems in the. . .

Read More >

Kingdom Cons
Kingdom Cons by Yuri Herrera
Reviewed by Sarah Booker

Yuri Herrera is overwhelming in the way that he sucks readers into his worlds, transporting them to a borderland that is at once mythical in its construction and powerfully recognizable as a reflection of its modern-day counterpart. Kingdom Cons, originally. . .

Read More >

The Invented Part
The Invented Part by Rodrigo Fresán
Reviewed by Tiffany Nichols

Imagine reading a work that suddenly and very accurately calls out you, the reader, for not providing your full attention to the act of reading. Imagine how embarrassing it is when you, the reader, believe that you are engrossed in. . .

Read More >

The next few events from our Translation Events Calendar: See More Events >