Trillium Book Awards Author Reading 2015

Luminato 2011 - Celebrating New Writing from the Arab World

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Luminato 2011 - Celebrating New Writing from the Arab World

On June 12 Jian Ghomeshi (Q) will be interviewing five young writers at the Glenn Gould Studio in an event entitled Beirut39 at Luminato. Over the last four years we’ve had the chance to partner with some wonderful local and international arts partners – The New Yorker, the Toronto Public Library system, Diaspora Dialogues and The Atlantic. Back in September I reached out to an organization we’ve long admired, the UK’s Hay Festivals. Hay, which started in Wales in 1988, is an international festival of literature and ideas. Bill Clinton called it the “Woodstock of the mind.”

One of Hay's signature projects has been the publication of an anthology celebrating new voices from the Arab world, launched last year in Beirut, Lebanon. The Beirut39 anthology celebrates 39 writers under the age of 39 from the region. The June 12 Luminato event promises to be an amazing afternoon of conversation with fresh voices from a region that is currently booming on the literary scene.

I am very excited that we are hosting these five writers in Toronto for an in-depth discussion about fiction from the Arabic-speaking world and the role of novelists and writers in the Arab uprising. Jian will be talking with Joumana Haddad (Lebanon), Mohammed Hasan Alwan (Saudi Arabia), Randa Jarrar (USA/Egypt), Yassin Adnan (Morocco) and Hyam Yared (Lebanon) about their work and the role of literature in the politics of the region which has been such a large part of public discourse. It will be wonderful to hear the perspective from literature.

Joumana, in addition to being a novelist, is the editor of the culture pages of Beirut’s An Nahar newspaper and also the person who helps organize the International Prize for Arabic Fiction, known as the Arab Booker. The prize is one of the biggest new initiatives to see more authors from the region have their work translated and read on a global scale.

Once we knew that the project was on, we started finding some great articles about the role of literature in what was happening politically. The Telegraph published one in March entitled Spreading the Word. Many of our participating authors have been writing and contributing to the wider discussion in the media. In addition, Mohammad Hasan Alwan’s short story Oil Field, was published in the Guardian last month. Also check out this great video of Samuel Shimon, editor of the anthology, talking about its genesis.

I am happy that Luminato is the first Canadian cultural institution to partner with Hay, and we’re very excited to be hosting Beirut39 on June 12.

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