A smaller, tighter festival but one of the best in years: that was the consensus among Rover writers who covered a slew of events at the 11th Blue Metropolis Montreal International Literary Festival. Organizers said attendance at the five-day event grew by 5% this year to 16,900 people, despite fewer events and a reduced budget. The theme was “words that matter,” a serious idea befitting anxious times.
Festivities wound up yesterday with a closing panel discussion featuring prominent Canadian writers talking about their mini-biographies of extraordinary Montrealers.
British novelist and literary critic A.S. Byatt. Byatt, winner of the 2009 Blue Metropolis International Literary Grand Prix, drew a full houses, as did Montreal broadcaster satirical writer Jonathan Goldstein, historian Margaret MacMillan, Israeli writers A.B. Yehoshua and Meir Shalev, John Ralston Saul, and a panel of South Asian writers including Rana Bose, Saleema Nawaz, Tariq Ali and M.G. Vassanji.
Writers at this year’s Festival came from Belgium, France, Morocco, Guatemala, Argentina, Nicaragua, Hungary, United Kingdom, the Netherlands, Italy, United States of America, Israel and Syria, and included Canadian writers originally from Iran, Palestine, Iraq, Lebanon, Haiti, Poland and Pakistan.
Next year’s festival will take place from April 21 to 25.