Montreal festival salutes Bellow, Layton
March 17, 2006
A Montreal literary festival will pay tribute next month to two giants of Canadian literature who have died in the past year.
Saul Bellow during a 1999 writers conference in Boston. Montreal's Blue Met to pay tribute to him in April. (AP photo)
The Blue Metropolis Montreal International Literary Festival is planning tributes to Nobel Prize-winning novelist Saul Bellow and poet Irving Layton.
The Blue Met festival, which runs April 5 to 9, is a multilingual festival that draws writers in English, French and Spanish.
This year it will focus on writers with a connection to Montreal. More than 200 writers, translators, cartoonists and storytellers are scheduled to participate.
Bellow, who won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1976, is considered one of the best writers of the 20th century. He was born in the Montreal suburb of Lachine, but his family left Quebec when he was nine and he spent most of his adult life in Chicago
While some literary experts now question the significance of Bellow's connection to the city, Blue Met artistic director Linda Leith says the author of Herzog and Humboldt's Gift always acknowledged on his Montreal roots.
"It seems to me that we have been rather modest in refraining from claiming him," Leith said in an interview with CBC Radio. "Living somewhere to the age of nine is a significant stretch of time for a writer. These are the formative years for a writer, and for anyone, for that matter."
Bellow, known for his wry humour and depictions of Jewish America, died last April at age 89.
"I saw Saul Bellow the last time he gave a reading in Montreal — which must be about six years ago now — and he had just written a story that was set here in Montreal and which was based on his memories of Montreal," Leith said.
"I gathered from his widow that they were thinking of moving back to Montreal. I think the connection is stronger than we have given credit for."
Montreal also lost a larger-than-life personality with Layton's death this January.
The 93-year-old poet broke new ground in the 1950s and 1960s by writing frankly about sex and love. He also mentored a generation of writers, including a young Leonard Cohen.
Irving Layton was firebrand poet. (Roloff Beny/Library and Archives Canada)
Layton was known for his rapier wit on the CBC-TV debating program Fighting Words. His works, including excerpts from A Red Carpet in the Sun, will be read as part of the tribute.
Quebec playwright Michel Tremblay will be honoured with the Blue Met's festival's Grand Prix in recognition of a prolific body of work that celebrates Montreal. He will give two on-stage interviews as part of the festival.
Tremblay is award-winning writer of such works as Les Belles Soeurs and For the Pleasure of Seeing Her Again.
The late Jacques Ferron, the "intellectual guerrilla" who formed the Rhinoceros Party, is also being celebrated.
Among the writers reading at the festival are the Canadians David Bezmozgis, Nino Ricci and Camilla Gibb, Tomas Segovia of Spain and Andrei Makine of France.
CBC Radio's Eleanor Wachtel will focus on Montreal writers during a panel discussion at the festival.
Thursday, April 6, 2006
5:30:00 PM Salle : Grand Salon Langue : A
21 - REMEMBERING IRVING LAYTON
Activité/Activity : Panel discussion
Durée/Length : 60 minutes
Prix/Cost : 5 $
Participants : Samantha Bernstein, Seymour Mayne, Musia Schwartz, Donald Winkler
Animateur(trice) / Host : Anne Lagacé Dowson
Note : Join friends, family and admirers in celabrating the life of one of Canada's greatest poets, who died January 4th, 2006.
Biographie / Biography