Less a straight-up best-of than an attempt at a representative cross-section, here, in no special order, is a list of 10 highlights from a rich Blue Metropolis program. Some events, regrettably but unavoidably, overlap with others, but fear not: there are always alternatives close by.
Unless otherwise specified, the venues are in Hôtel 10, located at 10 Sherbrooke St. W.
Ghostwriters & Company: All Story, No Glory. An age-old but seldom examined corner of the writer’s market gets its due as practitioners Julie Barlow, Gina Roitman and former Montreal Gazette books editor Bryan Demchinsky talk about the art and experience of telling someone else’s life story from behind a cloak of anonymity. Sure to be fascinating. (Saturday, April 29, 11 a.m., Salle St-Laurent, $10)
Homage to Carmine Starnino. In which the titular native son, long central to Montreal’s literary culture, returns from his current home in Toronto. Fellow poet, critic and editor Derek Webster hosts as Montreal Gazette columnist Mark Abley, Michael Harris and the ever-popular “many more” render tribute. (Friday, April 28, 8 p.m., Salle Godin, $10)
Blue Met’s 2017 Grand Prix Event: Anita Desai. For a sense of occasion, it’s hard to beat the annual presentation of the festival’s big prize. Writing largely about culture clash and exile from the perspective of an Indian of part-German parentage, three-time Booker nominee Desai has created a body of work that, in its own subtle way, is as substantial as any in the last half-century. Eleanor Wachtel, as is the tradition, conducts the interview. (Saturday, April 29, 4 p.m., auditorium of Bibliothèque et Archives nationales du Québec, 475 de Maisonneuve Blvd. E., $15)
“Gonzo Naturalist” Alex Shoumatoff on Human Greed, Ecocide and the Plight of the Giraffe. The title tells the story, as the prominent crusading journalist talks about how humankind is fouling its own nest. (Saturday, April 29, 3:30 p.m., Salle Jardin, $10)
Montreal: Once and Future City of Refuge. Ehab Lotayef, Cora Siré, Su Sokol and Caroline Vu talk about Montreal as a place where writers have found sanctuary. Hosted by Jaggi Singh. (Thursday, April 27, 3:30 p.m., Salle Jardin, $10)
Crossing the Divide: Authors Who Translate. In the land of the former two solitudes, prominent Quebec writers are translating others in both directions across the French-English divide. Catherine Leroux, Dimitri Nasrallah, Claire Holden Rothman and Daniel Grenier talk about this comparatively new phenomenon. (Grenier’s newly translated novel The Longest Year, a historical drama of a displaced Québécois in the American south, with a touch of time travel — trust me, it makes sense when you read it — is one of this columnist’s Books of 2017 so far.) (Thursday, April 27, 2:30 p.m., Salle St-Laurent, $10)
The Past Inside the Present: Queer Writers Contemplate the Future. Novelist Christopher DiRaddo hosts as Ann-Marie MacDonald, Nick Comilla and Kai Cheng Thom face the big issues. (Saturday, April 29, 10 a.m., Salle Godin, $10)
Writer’s Perspective: Whither the USA? Eleanor Wachtel moderates as four of the festival’s heaviest hitters — Anita Desai, David Treuer, Francisco Goldman and Imbolo Mbue — talk about living and working in today’s United States. There’s an elephant in that description, folks, and its name is Donald Trump. Don’t miss this one. (Saturday, April 29, 8 p.m., Salle St-Laurent, $10)
Little Sister: Barbara Gowdy in Conversation With Kathleen Winter. CanLit star Gowdy, back on the scene after a 10-year health-related absence, talks about her acclaimed new novel in an interview with fellow award winner Winter. Come early for this one: admission is free, both names onstage are big ones, and space is limited. Please note: Winter appears in place of previously announced interviewer Heather O’Neill. (Saturday, April 29, 7 p.m., Librairie Drawn & Quarterly, 211 Bernard St. W.)
Babel Blue Readings. Four group events featuring a fittingly heterogeneous gathering of writers from around the world reading in their respective native tongues. Participants include Anita Desai, George Elliott Clarke, Josip Novakovich, Xue Yiwei, Francisco Goldman, David Treuer, Barbara Gowdy, Rosemary Sullivan, Marie Costa, Gabriela Scheer, Stephen Henighan, Natasha Kanapé Fontaine, Imbolo Mbue and more. Arguably the quintessential events of a uniquely multilingual festival. (Thursday, April 27, 4:30 p.m., free; Friday, April 28, 2 p.m., all-poet lineup, $30, includes wine tastings; Saturday, April 29, noon, free; Sunday, April 30, 3 p.m., free; Salle Godin)
AT A GLANCE
Blue Metropolis runs from Monday, April 24 to Sunday, April 30. For full details on events and tickets, visit bluemetropolis.org.