The Blue Metropolis International Literary Festival returned for its 24th edition to three Montreal venues: Hotel 10, the Grande Bibliothèque, and the McCord Museum.
While many of this year’s highlights rightfully place literature studying the ongoing Ukrainian war at the forefront of its discourse, this article will only cover the following two events: “Deflected Autobiographies: On Family and Seeking a Sense of Home” and “Remise du prix Sciences et littérature à Hubert Reeves”.
Books on Family and Belonging
Deflected Autobiographies: On Family and Seeking a Sense of Home
Exile and intergenerational trauma. Authoritarian oppressive regimes and daily trauma.
The audience learns about the firsthand experience of such adversities through the dialogue between the three writers Pablo Boczkowski, Julian Fuks, Marc Raboy, and the host Ingrid Bejerman, following the introduction of their most recently published works.
As made obvious during the panel, politics, culture and identity are neither static nor exist in a vacuum. They are interdependent societal constituents, and their malleability stems from this very interconnection. The overarching theme of the presented books is family, and the authors explore the influence the three aforementioned elements have had on their family and themselves. The speakers find common ground in their shared cultural identity – or their shared struggle to define it – as adolescent European immigrants in a structurally fragile Argentina. They discuss the reality of living in this political instability, which decades ago turned into military despotism; one author, while evoking the omnipresence of soldiers in his daily life, recounts how armed guards would escort schoolchildren to the bathroom — at gunpoint.
Boczkowski, Fuks and Raboy are all children of generations of individuals affected by diasporas, and their story of exile continues through them as they immigrated from South America to Canada and the United States later in their own lives. Ultimately, it is through literature that they attempt to establish a sense of belonging and an individual identity.
Literature and Astrophysics
Remise du prix Sciences et littérature à Hubert Reeves
The Big Bang, nucleosynthesis, the creation of you and I. The art of vulgarising science through books.
This second event, presented exclusively in French, served more as a lecture and a casual awards ceremony than a discussion panel, during which the Montreal-born author and astrophysicist Hubert Reeves received a Science and Literature Award.
Host Marie-Andrée Lamontagne also interviewed local astrophysicist Robert Lamontagne (note: they are not related!), who explained in simple terms what nucleosynthesis is and how organic matter — the foundation of living beings like us — was created from inert matter. The answer is quite poetic: everything that composes you, me, and everything surrounding us was forged by dying stars in a process that began 14 billions years ago. In less poetic terms, we are essentially all made of highly recycled material.
For most of the history of the universe, all of this material was inert and dead. Life appeared only very recently, and consciousness materialized itself even later on.
Take a moment to absorb these facts. Picture this lifeless, dead, cold void that was our universe for billions of years.
Now, I hope to leave you with the same state of awe that the following statement from Mr. Lamontagne left me in: “Quand on y pense, à travers nous, l’univers prend conscience de sa propre existence.” (Really, the universe became aware of its own existence through us.)
The Blue Metropolis International Literary Festival took place from April 28 – May 8, 2022 in Montreal. For information about upcoming events and next year’s event, click HERE.