Blue Metropolis International Literary Festival: United colours of Blue Met

United colours of Blue Met

Amitav Ghosh is one of the Indian writers celebrated by Blue Metropolis this year
Photo: Astrid di Crollalanza

A diversity of cultures will be celebrated during the 13th Blue Metropolis International Literary Festival

"Blue Met has always focused on international writers and international literature," says Gregory McCormick, Blue Metropolis’ director of English and allophone programming. This year, for instance, the event will welcome no less than 200 writers representing 12 countries and seven languages.

This year being the Year of India in Canada, special attention will be given to writers hailing from the Land of the Tiger. "Our celebration of Indian writing will include seven or eight different events, involving Indian writers such as Amitav Ghosh, whose last book, Sea of Poppies, was shortlisted for the Booker Prize," says McCormick. "Another is Bharati Mukherjee – her new book is called Miss New India, she’s also written some journalistic pieces on things like the Air India disaster, and she used to live in Montreal and teach at McGill, actually. Then we have Meena Kandasamy, who is a really exciting young poet and a great performer, and Aziz Hajini, who’s a playwright, a translator and an expert on the Kashmir situation. So it’s a wide variety of writers from India who are going to talk about all the different aspects of contemporary Indian culture and literature."

Another notable event is the multilingual ceremony during which the Al Majidi Ibn Dhaher Arab Prize will be awarded. "This is the fourth year that we’ve done that and, this year, the prize is given to an Egyptian writer, Alaa Al Aswany, whose claim to fame is that he’s actually a dentist!" explains McCormick. "He’s written a few very interesting books chronicling modern life in Cairo, one in particular called The Yacoubian Building, about the history of a building, its inhabitants and their interconnected lives. He’s also just published On the State of Egypt, a collection of essays written over the last 18 months which details what’s been happening in Egypt politically, with the demonstrations and everything."

Also promising, according to McCormick, is Headscarves & Blindfolds, a reading by two Arab-Canadian poets. "One is John Asfour, he’s been blind since he was injured by a landmine when he was a teenager in Lebanon, but he writes a lot about what it means to experience poetry and literature, which raises questions about how we experience poetry, because poetry is often very visual. The other writer’s name is Ehab Lotayef, he’s an engineering professor at McGill and he’s written a book called To Love a Palestinian Woman, a whole collection about love and humanity; it’s a beautiful book. They’re very different writers, but they represent two really interesting perspectives on Arab-Canadian poetry."

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Blue Metropolis International Literary Festival

At Holiday Inn Select (99 Viger Avenue West), until May 1

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