Blue Metropolis Literary Festival—20th Anniversary!—Books & Ideas


Almemar series—Main events Sat. April 28 & Sun. April 29

  • The Gabriel Safdie Event: Jerusalem of the Mind, panel discussion with noted authors Marcello Di Cintio, Ariela Freedman, Sayed Kashua, Leila Marshy, Ruby Namdar and Chantal Ringuet
  • Daniel Mendelsohn’s Odyssey, interview
  • Ruby Namdar’s The Ruined House: 21st Century Sin and Superficiality Meet the Talmud
  • Why the Jews? Film by John Curtin, discussion with John Curtin, Susan Pinker, Rabbi Poupko

Montreal, April 2018 –Blue Metropolis International Literary Festival, this year celebrating its 20th anniversary, features authors from 19 countries who write in 15 different languages. Every year, there are diverse themes and special events in this rich and varied festival, with one of the most popular being the Almemar* series. Blue Metropolis’ Almemar series brings Jewish writers from near and far to discuss culture, art and humour, all at a stone’s throw from the historic Jewish stomping ground of The Main, aka St-Laurent Boulevard. Key events from this series take place on April 28 & 29, with numerous other readings, interviews, and book signings throughout the Festival. Blue Met is one of the best deals around, with most events either free or $10 and under.  *Almemar—the raised platform in a synagogue on which the reading desk stands and where the Torah is read; pulpit or ‘bema’ in Hebrew.

The Almemar series encompasses the richness and variety of works written by Jewish authors with engaging interviewers and panelists moderating events.  From Israeli-American Ruby Namdar to Montrealer Ariela Freedman, and from a film about the triumph of Jewish culture over debilitating odds (John Curtin’s Why the Jews?) to a round table on the idea of Jerusalem; now to fit it all in to one weekend!

Gabriel Safdie Event: Jerusalem of the Mind brings together six esteemed authors in a conversation about the City of Gold as a symbolic place, a city one imagines, remembers, dreams, and writes about. The six authors with Jerusalem on their mind are Marcello Di Cintio, Ariela Freedman, Sayed Kashua, Leila Marshy, Ruby Namdar and Chantal Ringuet, with author Claire Holden Rothman leading the panel.

From Shelley Pomerance, Blue Met Associate Programming Director: “Last year we presented Bridging the Divide, an event sponsored by Gabriel Safdie highlighting the anthology Double Exposure: Plays of the Jewish and Palestinian Diasporas. The room was packed, the discussion was impassioned, and it was clear to me that people — Jews, Palestinians and others — are eager for events where they can share their thoughts and feelings about the relationship between Jews and Palestinians.”

For Gabriel Safdie, Christianity is inextricably woven into the fibre of the city, as is the history of Islam, while the city has traditionally been a home for the Jews, “The convergence of prayers from the wall—in Hebrew on a Jewish holiday, along with the muezzin’s haunting, melodic readings from the Koran, and the resonant Christian holy bells—personifies for me the finely woven spirituality of this ancient sacred city. Jerusalem inhabits our collective memory; it holds a unique place in one’s mind. Because of the conflicts that continue to plague the city, it deserves as much dialogue and exchange of ideas as possible, nowhere more meaningful than from writers in a literary forum.”

This from panelist Ariela Freedman (Arabic for Beginners): “My name is a variant of Ariel, the ‘Lion of God’, one of Jerusalem’s names. I’ve carried the idea of Jerusalem, as well as the compelling, confusing, conflictual reality all my life. Jerusalem is always news, most recently as Trump’s capital. I’m also looking forward to hearing Sayed Kashua— the funniest and most heartbreaking bard of Jerusalem alive today.”

For Palestinian-Canadian participant Leila Marshy (The Philistine), Jerusalem is a city divided by time, people, barriers, soldiers, broken negotiations and broken hearts: “It was a city long dreamed about by people who never saw it, which was then turned into a nightmare for the people who had never left.”

Ariela Freedman will also be the interviewer for Daniel Mendelsohn’s Odyssey, discussing how he weaves the various strands of his life into profound and moving works. “Mendelsohn is a contemporary master—articulate and poignant. If you can’t take your father on an Odyssey cruise, the next best thing is reading about one. His themes of home, parenthood and loss are as ancient as the Greeks and as contemporary as our own individual odysseys,” she said.

In the film Why the Jews?, the stunning accomplishments of the Jews raise an obvious question. How do they do it? Directed by John Curtin, this film tackles a mystery shrouded in ignorance and prejudice. Some of the world’s most prominent thinkers draw a startling link between a peoples’ achievement and their long history of persecution. A discussion moderated by Shelley Pomerance with the director, author and psychologist Susan Pinker, and Rabbi Reuben Poupko follows the screening.

Other featured authors and events in the Almemar series include: The New Yorker‘s Adam Gopnik (At the Strangers’ Gate); Ayelet Gundar-Goshen (Waking Lions) from Israel; Sayed Kashua (Native: Dispatches from a Palestinian-Israeli Life); The Violet Hour Reading Series; Stories of Darkness, Writing and Resilience; and Old Bodies, Old Souls: Why They Make Good Subjects for Literature.

For further Almemar details as well as all Festival, buy tickets online


Ruby Namdar’s The Ruined House: 21st Century Sin and Superficiality Meet the Talmud

In Namdar’s book, a New York intellectual is overcome by religious visions and his worlds collide

Saturday, April 28: Museum of Jewish Montreal, 4040 boul. Saint-Laurent, 3pm, $10


Why the Jews? Film by John Curtin followed by panel discussion

Saturday, April 28: De Sève Cinema, Concordia University, 1455 de Maisonneuve West, 7:30pm, $10


Daniel Mendelsohn’s Odyssey: the author in conversation with Ariela Freedman

Sunday, April 29: McCord Museum, 690 Sherbrooke West, 11:30am, $10


The Gabriel Safdie Event: Jerusalem of the Mind, panel discussion

Sunday, April 29: HOTEL10 Salle Godin, 10 Sherbrooke St. West, 1:30pm, $10