by Ray Filip
Montreal's 1987 Salon du Livre in Place Bonaventure this November celebrated its 10th anniversary along with that of UNEQ (Union des ecrivains quebecois), the 500member writers' organization. The official opening ceremony brought together two of the city's most illustrious English and French authors. Michel Tremblay sat with folded arms at one end of the stage, while at the opposite end a bespectacled Mordecai Richter gazed on, looking engagingly bored. Richter had the honour of being the first invited English writer ever to attend the event - though he did not utter one syllable into the microphone. Tremblay sat the tone for the unique exhibition by stating that its purpose was not to sell books, but to allow writers to meet their readers. In the presence of the creators, book lovers could participate in "seances de sidnature" (no, the readers did not hold hands with authors until an autograph magically appeared on the page).
The poet politician who stole this year's show was PQ backbencher Gdrald Godin. His collection of poems written between 1960 and 1986, entitled Ils ne demandaient qu'a bruler, won two major awards: the Prix Duvernay and the Grand Prix du Livre de la Ville de Montreal. The latter prize has doubled in cash value to $10,000 since it was last bestowed in 1982.
Godin proved to be quite the punster during a round-table discussion. He claimed that just as there is no difference between the poet and the politician, neither is there a difference between the "Iecteur-lectrice and the affecteur-electrice."
Several appealing panel discussions linked the six-day fair. Roch Carrier, president of the Salon du Livre, expressed the need to explore further French markets on this continent, since there are more students of French in the United States than in all of Quebec, not to mention the growing popularity of Frenchimmersion courses throughout Canada.
Fraricoise IqbaI, author of Desafinado, autobiographie d'Hubert Aquin, along with friends or admirers of this "etre theatral" such as Jacques Languirand, Paul Ohl. and Andree Yanacopoulo, explained their fascination with the suicide of Hubert Aquin. Many theories were proposed ragging from the Hamlet motif to the Japanese connection with author suicides, to Jekyll and Hyde existential crises, to symbolic national liberation exempting the nation from dying. The question of whether the mind behind the two Quebecois masterpieces Prochain Episode and Trou de memoire died from an excess of darkness or light can never be answered. Iqbal, who never knew Aquin personally, said the book was motivated by her desire to understand why one of the brightest men Quebec has ever produced would choose death over life.
Lighter notes filled the exhibition hall as well. Pierrette Champoux presented a video called Sur la Terre comme au clef - a kind of feminist chanson de geste. praising the accomplishments of 11 women, including Governor General Jeanne Sauvd, first Quebec female parliamentarian Claire Kirkland Casgrain, and federalist and author Solange Chaput Roland.
Other features involved live tango music played by Tango x 4 (missing one member) to launch La Petite Histoire du bandoneon et du tango by Arturo Penon and Javier Garda Mdndez; an hommage to Jacques Prdvert on the 10th anniversary of his death, performed by actorpoet Christian Vezina, with an exceptionally good interpretation of "Dimanche"; a Bibliotheque Nationale display of rare books, documents, music sheets, maps, etc., which varied from the original "4,000 dollars REWARD 4,000 piastres de Recompense'' wanted poster for the head of Louis-Joseph Papineau to the playbill of Sarah Bernhardt's last Montreal show; a free computerized copy of page 1 of any issue of La Presse; and a scene from Victor-Ldvy Beaulieu's novel L'Heritage acted out live on stage by Gilles Pelletier and Aubert Pallasclo since the spectacle was a lancement (book launching). a copy of L'Heritage was thrown into the audience.
In keeping with the anniversary number of 10, the Prix Floury-MespIet (named after the first printer in Montreal and founder of the Gazette) was awarded in 10 categories - such as general literature (Anne Herbert), poetry (Gills Vigneault), children's literature (Dinette Anfousse), publishing (Jacques Fortin of Qudbec-Amdrique), magazine editing (Jean Part of L'Actualite), translations (Paula Daveluy) - for works published over the last 10 years.
Foreign publishing houses included firms from Belgium, China, the Ivory Coast, France, Great Britain, Hong Kong. Italy, Malaysia, Morocco, the Netherlands, West Germany, Senegal, Sweden, Togo. Tunisia, the U.S.A., and the U.S.S.R.
With an operating budget of $1,000,000, the Salon du Livre attracted a record 83,500 people - 1,200 more than last year. Next year, the Salon's planners intend to increase the size of the fair by 33 per cent in space, and by one more day in time to seven. This literary extravaganza differs from the EnglishCanadian Booksellers' Association convention, generating more of a sense of family reunion with the public than of an industry network. Future efforts will attempt to lure English language publishers from Toronto. Roch Carrier intends to make Montreal the book capital of Canada.