The Montreal Holiday Book Fair is rewriting its history for the pandemic edition


Launched in 2015, the event originally known as the Holiday Pop-Up Book Fair marks what could be its biggest hit to date with a pair of seminal figures.

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The Holiday Book Fair appears to be over six years old, and in a good way.

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Launched in 2015, the event initially known as the Holiday Pop-Up Book Fair has quickly established itself as a staple of the seasonal literary calendar for local book lovers. Fortunately, organizers weren’t about to let a pandemic stop them. Focused on English lighting, the show demonstrated admirable adaptability, finding creative ways to deal with COVID restrictions and reduced venue availability.

“Like any organization that organizes public events, there has been a lot of debate this year about what format ours would take,” said Rebecca West, Executive Director of the Association of English Language Editors of Quebec (AELAQ), co-producers of the event with the Federation of Writers of Quebec. “In the middle of Wave Four, towards the end of summer, with some of our old sites not accepting fall bookings, we decided to run a series of smaller in-person events rather than use a large room. ”

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With additional online options, an online-only marquee event, and a book-selling presence at this year’s Book Fair, the 2021 edition of the fair is a skillful blend of the real and the virtual, all maintained on a scale. manageable that honors the homey vibe of the pre-COVID years. When it comes to lineup, this year sees what could be the biggest blow of the fair yet, as a pair of seminal personalities top the list of featured writers.

Tomson Highway changed the whole narrative of Canadian literature when he entered the scene in the 1980s. His plays The Rez Sisters and Dry Lips Oughta Move to Kapuskasing portray aspects of the Indigenous experience in ways never seen before. nationally and internationally, while her 1998 novel Kiss of the Fur Queen is a classic of Canadian fiction. Born in northern Manitoba and a resident of Gatineau, the Cree writer has kept a relatively low profile in recent years, but his new memoir Permanent Astonishment has put him squarely back in the limelight, winning the Hilary Weston Writers’ Trust Prize for Nonfiction. He will be interviewed by Ann-Marie MacDonald on Thursday, November 18 at 7 p.m. at Shatford Hall at Center St-Jax, 1439 Ste-Catherine St. W. The event can also be viewed online; for more details see readquebec.ca/event/autoroute-macdonald.

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Tomson Highway changed the narrative of Canadian literature.
Tomson Highway changed the narrative of Canadian literature. Photo by Sean Howard

Marie-Claire Blais is a link with the era of the birth of modern Quebec literature. The publication of his novel La Belle Bête (Mad Shadows) in 1959 was a watershed moment, and an uncompromising work of fiction, poetry and drama has followed to the present day for the The 82-year-old, now based in Key West, Florida, will be interviewed by her translator Katia Grubisic during a Zoom event on Wednesday, November 17 at 7 p.m. Registration is required. Although not translated live, the event will be in English and French. See readquebec.ca/event/blais-grubisic for more details.

The previous book fair venue Atwater Library (1200 Atwater Ave.) eventually began to accept limited seasonal bookings, albeit capped at 20 people per event. The library reading room is the setting for the launch of the Revue de livre de Montréal in its fall 2021 issue, on Tuesday, November 16 at 7 p.m. Writers featured in the issue include Helen Chau Bradley, Eli Tareq El Bechelany-Lynch, and Tara McGowan-Ross, all of whom will be signing books at the launch.

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With supply chain issues being a popular topic of discussion, it should be noted that books by participating writers will be on sale at in-person events – an added incentive to do your Christmas book shopping earlier.

A selection of books by Quebec writers organized by the AELAQ will be available in the Lire Quebec online catalog. (readquebec.ca/livres). The AELAQ will also sell books by Quebec authors at him in person Book Fair (25 to 28 Nov. at the Palais des congrès).

Overall, it’s as close to business as usual for the Holiday Book Fair as one might reasonably expect. The idea of ​​a massive postponement to more normal times was never seriously considered, West said.

“For us, the general consensus was that this is a great tradition, and we want people to know that we are still here and that we are going strong.”

IN THE BLINK OF AN EYE

The Holiday Book Fair takes place in person and online from November 16-18. Participation in all indoor events requires vaccination passport, photo ID and masks.

ianmcgillis2@gmail.com

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