Trillium Book Awards Author Reading 2015


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About this time every year, I feel like a book lover and a wedding planner. It’s mid-April, and we’re two months out from mounting a large-scale, multi-genre arts festival – Luminato. My reoccurring June wedding. Ten days, dozens of venues. Theatre, literature, music, dance, visual arts. Five-hundred guest artists. Every year I bring over twenty-five Canadian and international authors to Toronto to share new work and celebrate the written word. Our past guests include Gore Vidal, Ben Okri, Neil Gaiman, Chimamanda Adichie, Yiyun Li, David Bezmozgis, Aravind Adiga and Dionne Brand among others.

Unlike most other festivals, we program thematically across genres. This year Luminato’s signature theatre piece is One Thousand and One Nights. Building on that, I really wanted to celebrate new fiction and poetry from the Arab world. It’s a world I didn’t know much about and of course now, because of the uprising, is all the more pertinent even though we started planning back in September. As with everything in my job as the literary program curator, it began with reading.

There’s the classics, Mahfouz, el-Saadawi, Maalouf. I had read them, but I hadn’t explored more contemporary literature from the region. I knew about the International Prize for Arabic Fiction, started in 2008 in partnership with the Man Booker Prize Foundation in London, but I also found out about an initiative started by one of my favourite literary festivals, Hay (the festival began in Wales in the late 1980s) :

The initiative, called Beirut39 celebrates 39 young Arab authors under the age of 39. The possibility of bringing some of the authors to Toronto was very exciting. I had the pleasure of connecting with Cristina Fuentes la Roche, one of the program directors at Hay, to invite five authors to Toronto from Saudi Arabia, Morocco, Egypt and Lebanon. That was how we began building our 2011 literary program.

Now we’re once again in the midst of running around, finalizing details and making sure the guests actually arrive in June. That said, I would love you to join myself and our literary team (Mari Ferzli, who comes to us from Finland and is currently finalizing her MA in Comparative Literature, Nick Hutcheson, who’s moved back to Toronto after working at the Banff Centre in the Literary Arts Program and Saima Hussain, former Books Editor at Dawn, Pakistan’s largest English-language daily) over the next two months as we chronicle the inside story of making Luminato’s literary program come to life.

The views expressed in the Writer-in-Residence blogs are those held by the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of Open Book: Toronto.

Devyani Saltzman

Devyani Saltzman is a Canadian writer. She is the author of Shooting Water, a memoir, as well as articles for The Globe and Mail, The Atlantic Monthly, Marie Claire, TOK: an anthology of new Toronto writing, The Literary Review of Canada and Tehelka, India's weekly known for arts and investigative journalism. She is currently Curator of Literary Programming for Luminato, Toronto's Festival of Arts and Creativity.

Go to Devyani Saltzman’s Author Page