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.


Concordia’s epic book fair

From Nov. 4-5, the 22nd edition of the annual book fair is taking over Concordia’s EV building

Whoever said that people don’t read anymore might want to stop at Concordia’s epic book fair for a reality check.

The two-day sale has been a successful tradition. For over 20 years, it has attracted students looking for their textbooks to save money, but also staff members and even non-Concordians looking to find a treasure.

Luke Quin, writer and coordinator for the fundraising book fair.

“It seems like for young people, though they utilize technology or listen to audiobooks, there is still an appeal for hard book,” said Luke Quin, writer and coordinator for the fundraising book fair. “Especially when it comes to older books, earlier edition, things that might not be accessible on Amazon.”

Quin explained that the idea behind having thousands of books on display at a low rate is to collect funds for scholarships, but also for the Student Emergency and Food fund. This particular fund is intended for any students in immediate financial need, to provide them with gift cards for groceries.

Books donations are made all year round, often from professors and retirees who are emptying out their offices, Quin said. While people might expect it to contain only academic novels, there are also entire sections dedicated to children’s books, sport, fiction or even good old romance.

“I came last year, so I am coming back to try and find anything interesting,” said Nazim Ben, a Concordia student in the Finance Department. “I am just curious for anything that is cool!”

Indeed, patience is needed to browse through the multiple sections. Susan Hawke, a retiree who has volunteered at the fair since its second edition, remembers how it started simply with two or three tables in the Hall building.

“It was always my fear, for a long time, that people would stop reading or [stop wanting to read in book format], but it always seems to be the reverse,” Hawke said.

If you’re measuring success in terms of money, the event has been prosperous, managing to increase the number of donations over the years. The Advancement and Alumni Relations reported that the 2018 edition raised over $31,000, a record for the event.

But for Quin and the volunteers, it’s also successful as it takes used books that might have ended up in the garbage and offers them to students instead.

“People that go through the cash register, they go with a stranger’s book that is falling apart or some old fiction book that was selling for 25 cents,” Hawke said. “You never know what appeals to people, it’s quite fun, matching people and books.”


Feature photo by Jad Abukasm

Student Life

Exploring LGBTQ+ literature on campus

Queer between the covers hosts a colourful book and zine fair

Concordia’s EV atrium is often bustling with students, walking in all different directions, in a constant hurry. On Feb. 27, though, students slowed down and took a moment to pass by the Queer Between the Covers (QBtC) book and zine fair. The book fair was one of many events organized for Concordia’s first Winter Pride Week, which ran from Feb. 26 to March 2.

The QBtC book fair collective provides the Montreal community with written works about queer topics by queer authors. According to Dorian Fraser, one of the event’s organizers, the fair had been in the works since September. The collective’s table was filled with zines and literature about LGBTQ+ topics and experiences, which were available for purchase on a pay-what-you-can basis.

“Our goal is to showcase the community’s voice in a public space, so that marginalized individuals feel like they have a safe place,” Fraser said, just as someone walked by and noticed the theme of the fair. “Oh my god, I love this,” they exclaimed. “I feel at home.”

According to Fraser, the fair was also an opportunity for individuals to learn about services available to them on campus and in the community, such as the Centre for Gender Advocacy.

Lucy Uprichard, a member of the QBtC, said many of the zines and books for sale were shipped from the United States, the United Kingdom and even France. A very rare find, Manifeste d’une femme trans et autres textes by Julia Serano, a trans-bi activist, was available for purchase at the collective’s table.

Laid out across tables, the books and zines created a beautiful display of colour. Photo by Alex Hutchins.

Kersplebedeb Publishing and Distribution, a radical left-wing publishing house, had a whole library of books at the fair, including feminist and anti-homophobic content.

Behind the tables, Montreal-based queer freelance artists showcased their artwork, designs, zines, clothing and accessories, like pins.

Artist Kay Nau had her art on display at the fair. “I do a lot of exploration of line work and experiment with the background and the foreground,” she explained. A large part of her work is inspired by her experiences as a black woman, including people’s misconceptions about her hair. Many of the drawings and paintings she had on display featured inter-racial and homosexual couples.

Artist Fat Kitty Rising had patches layed out with embroidered sayings, such as “Anxious mess” and “Fat babe.” They said they uses embroidery as a coping mechanism for their chronic physical pain, as well as their anxiety disorder. Their collection also included patches with the different astrological signs on them.

Many of the other tables exhibited zines about homosexuality and being transgender, as well as comical zines created by the various artists in attendance.

For Sorya Nguon-Bélisle, a photographer selling her magazine, J’ai choke, “showcasing my work like that is vulnerable in the same way people I profile show their vulnerability.”

Feature photo by Alex Hutchins

Disclaimer: Corrections have been made to the original article.
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