The Salon du Livre de Montréal: a wonderful abode for book lovers

From Nov. 23 to Nov. 27 Montrealers had the privilege to enjoy books from the francophone world

As one entered the Salon du Livre, they were immediately greeted by the Agora, which served to host author interviews and book readings. People were given maps that displayed the names of the publishing houses around the immense space that is the Palais des Congrès.

Despite the venue’s cold appearance, the salon was able to add life to its walls, with colourful posters and shelves of publishers that extended across the broad space. 

The salon occupied the space with colourful tables, couches and plants to give it life, encouraging people to sit and read their new purchases.  

The morning of Sunday, Nov. 27 was buzzing with people, making it hard to move without being pushed, as patrons were wandering aimlessly into the vast world of literature. 

The salon had accessible prices and was free for visitors under 12, it also included spaces reserved for kids. It was clear they wanted to promote reading to a young audience.

On Saturday night, people were exhausted from Black Friday shopping, evident from visitors walking slowly, tired looking writers, and the staff seemed ready for their workday to end.

Authors were seated on odd pedestals in front of their respective publishing houses. When no one came to sign their work, their only distraction was a mere cup of water and their own books. 

The pedestals seemed in no way effective as very few people were having their books signed, unless the writer was someone already well-known. 

The Salon had organized a series of talks with authors.

Expert of Quebecois horror literature Patrick Sénécal gave a hilarious talk presenting his new book Résonances. On that Saturday night, he seemed exhausted, as he answered in a more relaxed cadence than his usual character. 

He discussed how most people think he must be mentally insane to write such disturbing novels, to which he responded “I’m just like everyone else.” 

These series of talks served to humanize authors as people, not idols. Novelist Anaïs Barbeau-Lavalette echoed Sénécal’s words, talking about finishing a book: “Once it’s out it belongs to you [the readers].”

She discussed her two recent books, Femme forêt and Femmes fleuve, which distinguish themselves greatly from her previous autobiographical work. Both harbour metaphorical verses, and propose to the reader a storyline following nature’s cycle. 

She noted that these books were the first time her writing did not depict her life specifically: “It’s the first time that this is not about me.”

She discussed her recent film Chien Blanc, noting that film was an interesting avenue in itself, but her preferred medium was writing, and at least in the near future she would stick to that.

She confessed, among other things, the difficulties in finding Romain Gary’s hermit son in the Spanish countryside to obtain the rights to make the novel into a film. 

“Writing is a solitary voyage,” she noted, whereas film involves teamwork and the considerations of different people. 

Wendat journalist Geneviève Pettersen namely spoke about her new book La reine de rien, a sequel from her first novel La Déesse des mouches à feu as an adult. 

She said she wrote a sequel because everyone kept on asking her what had happened to Catherine, the main character, and in her mind, it was obvious that she simply continued living. 

This coming-of-age story, which takes place in Chicoutimi, explored the ease of falling into bad habits and wanting to revolt. It received immense acclaim upon its release in 2021. It was even made into a film directed by the aforementioned Anaïs Barbeau-Lavalette. 

Beyond the bookworm aspect of book fairs, the salon had a noticeable commercial aspect to it. The books were not affordable, averaging in the mid-$30 price range. The clear intent was consumerism. Though the principal theme was books, the available seating was not comfortable enough for visitors to be entirely absorbed by a book. Talks that revolved around authors were centered around buying the copy to then get it signed. Not a single person was seen leaving the Salon without a book in hand. 

Salons du Livres happen around the world, on a yearly basis.

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