Blue Metropolis Montréal International Literary Festival turns 20

Richard Burnett

The Blue Metropolis International Literary Festival celebrates its 20th anniversary in 2018, featuring 262 authors from 19 countries – including India, Lebanon, Spain and Peru – and who write in 15 different languages. This year, 33% of events are in French, 39% in English, and 28% are bilingual or in other languages. The festival will take place from April 20 to 29, at HOTEL10 in downtown Montréal. Here are some choice events at this year’s edition.

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Eyes on the Prize

Each year Blue Met awards several literary prizes. Past grand prize winners include Joyce Carol Oates (2012), Margaret Atwood (2007), Carlos Fuentes (2005) and Norman Mailer (2001).

This year, prize winners include eminent philosopher and essayist Charles Taylor who accepts a special 20th anniversary edition of the Blue Metropolis Grand Prix in an April 28 ceremony at the Grande Bibliothèque; Argentine journalist Leila Guerriero receives the 2018 Premio Metropolis Azul; Lebanese author Charif Majdalani accepts the 2018 Blue Met Words to Change Prize; the 2018 Blue Metropolis First Peoples Literary Prize is awarded to Indigenous writer Lee Maracle; while Romanian-Canadian author Alina Dumitrescu receives the 2018 Blue Metropolis Literary Diversity Prize. Also, the inaugural Blue Metropolis Violet Literary Prize will be presented to LGBTQ poet, essayist and novelist Nicole Brossard.


Fear and Darkness

In honour of the 200th anniversary of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, Blue Met is exploring all that is eerie and spine-chilling: German novelist Dirk Kurbjuweit with his powerful novel Fear (April 27); Trevor Ferguson, aka crime writer John Farrow, with a one-man show “Tales From a Writer’s Life” (April 28); the master of Icelandic crime fiction Ragnar Jónasson, author of the Dark Iceland detective series (April 27); Blue Met’s Montreal Moonwalk with CBC Radio host Paul Kennedy; and The Children of Mary Shelley panel will explore her legacy (April 29);


Something For Everybody

At a festival that boasts 240 events featuring 262 writers from around the world – and with many of these writers participating in more than one event – there is something for everyone.

Featured authors this year include the much-acclaimed American writer Daniel Mendelsohn (An Odyssey: A Father, a Son and an Epic) at various events; the New Yorker’s Adam Gopnik (At the Strangers’ Gate); Vikas Swarup, author of the novel that became the movie Slumdog Millionaire; Ayelet Gundar-Goshen (Waking Lions) from Israel; Ruby Namdar, author of The Ruined House, called the great Hebrew-American novel; and Sayed Kashua (Native: Dispatches from a Palestinian-Israeli Life).

Violet Metropolis

Once again, Blue Met presents a special series on LGBTQ literature, featuring on-stage interviews, public readings, panel discussions and a new national literary prize: The inaugural Blue Metropolis Violet Prize will be awarded to Nicole Brossard at the Never Apart centre on April 26 where Brossard will be interviewed onstage by author Denis-Martin Chabot.

Blue Met will also look back at the legendary career of trailblazing author and Concordia University film and sexuality studies professor Thomas Waugh, in Hard to Imagine: Thomas Waugh on Teaching as Activism (April 28), also at Never Apart; and do not miss the latest instalment of Montreal’s long-running queer reading series, the Violet Hour (April 27). As usual, the Violet Hour will be held in gay-male strip joint Stock Bar (during off-hours) and will feature writers Kamal Al-Solaylee, Amber Dawn, Daniel Mendelsohn, Casey Plett and Joshua Whitehead.


Blue Metropolis Children’s Festival

Now in its 11th year, the Blue Metropolis Children’s Festival offers 115 events for children up to the age of 12. During the week, some 75 author meet-and-greets, story hours, workshops and shows will be offered to school groups in libraries, schools, early childhood centres, day-care centres and drop-in day-cares, as well as in children’s hospitals and specialized schools. On the weekends of April 21-22 and 28-29, teens and younger children accompanied by their parents will be able to take advantage of free events in bookstores, libraries and cultural centres throughout Montréal. Click here for all children’s events.

The Blue Metropolis International Literary Festival runs April 20 to 29 at HOTEL10 in downtown Montréal. For listings of all events, visit

Richard Burnett

Richard Burnett, blogger

Richard “Bugs” Burnett is a Canadian freelance writer, editor, journalist, blogger and columnist for alt-weeklies, mainstream and LGBTQ publications. Bugs also knows Montréal like a drag queen knows a cosmetics counter.

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