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Thursday, 28 May 2009

Saturday Photo: Jane and Me in Montreal


This is a little early, but given that I'm on the road, I thought I'd post this now that I'm in a good internet place.

A film about Jane Jacobs is being featured Saturday as part of an interesting festival on the Environment and the City. Called "The Urban Goddess: Jane Jacobs Reconsidered."

I'm supposed to be the resource person at the screening, to be held at 5 p.m. at the Cinema du Parc, 3575 Park Avenue, Montreal. The idea, I'm told, is to comment on the film (which I haven't yet seen) and field question about Jacobs and her work. It's a privilege to be invited to talk about her, and I'm looking forward to the event.
Here's the press release:

"When Jane Jacobs died in 2006, Canada lost one of its loudest and most persistent urban voices. What Jacobs advocated is well known: short blocks, mixed-use buildings and diverse neighbourhoods. Urban Goddess: Jane Jacobs Reconsidered considers the livable city: an issue that directly impacts the quality of life of the majority of the world’s population.

The documentary examines the champion of neighbourhood activism’s legacy, through two redevelopment disputes: one in New York and the other in Toronto. These disputes raise many of the same issues Jacobs encountered 50 years ago. It also looks at Vancouver, a city frequently put forward as a shining example of Jacobs’ livable city philosophy.

The documentary asks “Is Jane Jacobs’ legacy intact?” and, more to the point, “Is it still valid?”"

Tuesday, 26 May 2009

Spiritual Notes from All Over

Attendance in conventional Christian churches has been declining for some time, and nowhere is that clearer than in Quebec. Many denominations are affected, including the Roman Catholic Church which for 300 years wielded enormouos influence in the province. Just two weeks ago Saint-Denys-du-Plateau in suburban Quebec City heard a final mass celebrated, but a number of other churches have also closed their doors as the Catholic Church tries to rationalize its congregations. The standard ditty about ordinary life says it's all "Métro, boulot, dodo"--or commute, work, and then you're exhausted. But the church closing led Pierre Verville on Radio Canada to comment that religion here has become a case of "Credo, Bingo, Condo."

Portugal underwent the same great secularization that Quebec did in the last quarter of the 20th century. Certainly there seem to be churches on every corner, although how frequented they are, is unclear. I dropped in on the Basilica de Estrela on Sunday for part of the noon mass. The church was about two thirds full (including some tourists) but, for what's worth, there were a half dozen young families. One of them, I noted, came equipped with sand toys and balls--there´s very nice park across the street and perhaps the kids were promised an outing if they were good! Ah, the wiles of parents!

Today I'm off to Belem, where Vasco da Gama left from on his voyages. But my trip will be on public transport: times have changed.

Sunday, 24 May 2009

Reading and Greetings from Portugal

As I said, I'm in Portugal to do some research for a new book project. It's called (for the moment at least) Making Waves: The Portuguese around the World, and while I've seen traces of the great nation of European explorers from the West coast of India to the West Coast of North America not to mention the Azores and Brazil, I've never been to the Mother Country.

High time, I think, so I'll be away for a bit more than a week, and will not likely be posting very often. In the meantime, let me suggest some excellent reading on the country: The Return of the Caravels by Antonio Lobo Antunes. I had never read anything by him until last week when The New Yorker published an essay on his work. I went looking for it in Montreal libraries and found a copy in Portuguese at the nearby Mile End libraray. Even though I've been working on language for some time, I could make no progress until I found a copy in French in another library. It's a fascinating, very unsettling novel, which according to The New Yorker is also available in English. Haven't seen it, but I'd recommend it if you find it.

Saturday, 23 May 2009

Saturday Photo: The Cat That Rules the World

Calie is the reason why I'm in Portugal alone which is why, in turn, I haven't posted for a couple of days. For the next book project I'm spending 10 days in and around Lisbon, and I've found it a bit difficult to find internet access in blocks of time long enough to mess around with the blog. I'll have more to say in the next couple of days, but for the moment here's a picture of the cat who runs our household, if not the world.

Calie will turn 22 next month and is extremely set in her own ways. A year ago when Lee and I were in France, the kids split the time we were away, moving in for 10 days a piece to keep Calie happy. Now, old age has advanced so far that I don't think it's fair to ask anyone but Lee or me to look after her. So he stayed behind.

Of course, he's got a lot of things to do, projects he's been working on all winter and spring that are now reaching fruition, so I don't feel too badly about leaving him behind. Besides he's going to accompany Elin to Europe in August when she picks up her new viola da gamba, so he'll get a little travel in too.

And then when the day comes that Calie has gone on to that great catnip field in the sky we'll go some place together.

Wednesday, 20 May 2009

Robin Hood, Julie the Realtor and Brian Mulroney: Notes on Ethics and Economics

Every once in a while, a comment comes in that deserves more than a simple acknowledgement in the comment box. One arrived last week in answer to my criticism of the way the Harper government is dragging its feet in getting stimulus money out the door.

A "Realtor in Toronto" wrote:

"I would say throwing money at everything that says a quiet "help" is not a way to go either, see our southern neighbors. Printing money will have consequences later on. So lets just wait a little more, maybe we won't be the first one to get out of this, but once we do, we won't have to face problems like inflation, flooding of the market with cheap businesses, etc.

Take care, Julie"

Julie's voice comes from the corner which also tried to get Canadian banks to expand a few years ago, and to remove them from the regulatory limits which have proved to be just what kept Canada doing as well has it has. Julie, I wager, also made a bundle flipping properties when the times were good. Julie's friends in the US made even more money by collaborating with mortgage brokers who sold people without the means far too many subprime mortgages.

Keynes was right, regulation is important, government--good government--is essential. The sorry sight of Brian Mulroney going all around Robin Hood's barn as he tries to explain just why he took wads of cash and what he did with it unfortunately does absolutely nothing to encourage decent people's trust in the only agency that is upposed to look out for all of us--government. Where is Robin Hood when we need him, BTW?

Tuesday, 19 May 2009

Elin, New Music and the Viola da Gamba

We have a treat in store this afternoon: Elin is giving the second in her recitals presented as she works toward a doctorate in performance at the Université de Montréal. Although she's spent most of her musical career playing early music, her interest in improvisation--the way music was taught in the olden days--has led her to some much more experimental work. Where her first recital was based in the Italian improvisational tradition of the 16th and 17th century, this one doesn't have a composer who's older than 45.

Here's the program:

Ssolo (2002) by Henry Vega (NY, 1973)
for viola da gamba and computer.


Tombeau pour Shisui (2008) by Marie-Claire Saindon (Ottawa, 1984)
version for viola da gamba and bass flute; the original version was composed for
Ghislaine Deschambault and Elin Soderstrom

Stella by Michel Frigon (St-Antoine-des-Laurentides, 1967)
for bass flute and viola da gamba, composed for Cléo Palacio-Quintin and Elin Soderstrom

Music for Magpies (2003) by Emily Doolittle (Halifax, 1972)
Pied butcherbird
Hoopoe lark
Ringed rive snike
Pileated pocket grouse
Green-rumped antstalker
for viola da gamba solo with frets set at the quarter tone.

L'Alchimie de Psyché (2007) by Cléo Palacio-Quintin (Leuven, 1971)
for viola da gamba and electronic treatment, composed for Elin Soderstrom

Music lovers are invited to attend: 3 p.m. Salle Serge-Garant (B484) of the Music Faculty of l'Université de Montréal. Free admission.

And to think that the last recording she collaborated on was a version of Henry Purcell's greatest hits!

Monday, 18 May 2009

Why It's a Holday: Not Victoria, But Patriotes like Robert Nelson

It’s a holiday here. It used to be called Victoria Day (and still is in the Rest of Canada) or the Fête de Dollard, the first name reflecting the fact that it was the day Queen Victoria’s birthday was celebrated, and the other, commemorating a battle between Amerindians and French settlers. Neither one seems to me to be worth a holiday, although heaven knows it’s nice to have one this time of year.

Obviously I wasn’t the only one who disliked the names, so about five years ago, Quebec renamed it the Journée des Patriotes, in honour of the Rebellions of 1837-38, which was the nearest thing to a revolution Canada ever experienced. That’s something I can heartily endorse. Not only were the Patriotes active in both Lower and Upper Canada but they were part of that great wave of liberalization that swept the world in the 1830s. Some of the things advanced during the struggle weren’t brought about until well in the 20th century. In fact I was so taken by the Patriot cause that I wrote a book about one of them, an Anglophone named Robert Nelson.

But actually what happens this weekend is that people got out and plant. Common wisdom is that you shouldn’t put out annuals before this weekend—fixed as the third in May—because of the risk of frost earlier. All weekend garden centres were full of people buying (the fête de dollars?), and front yards, of people working. I spent Saturday planting and transplanting and several hours yesterday cutting back lilacs and pulling up weeds. Today it’s cool and lovely: great weather for new plants to settle in and for us to enjoy a suddenly blooming back yard.

Saturday, 16 May 2009

Saturday Photo: Roses at Giverny

A year ago Lee and I were in France. It was a delightful trip and we've been thinking of it a lot these days. One of the highlights was a day spent in Claude Monet's garden at Giverny, north-west of Paris, not far from the Seine. Roses were in bloom and the air was full of their scent, and of the sound of bees buzzing happily around.

It'll be a good month before our roses are in bloom, but this picture is a taste of things to come. The forecast is for temperatures not too much above freezing tonight, but my plan is to transplant perennials and put out some annuals anyway. It's Darwinian gardening--what survives, survives.

Friday, 15 May 2009

Brian Mulroney Testifies and Thomas Brossard Is Remembered

When you live with fictional characters for a long time, they can become as real as the people around you. That's the case with Thomas and Louise Brossard, the main characters in my novel The Violets of Usambara. Thomas was a Quebec politician, a Red Tory, who was booted out of office in 1993. Once one of Brian Mulroney's right hand men, he fell out of grace in large part because he was honest--or more honest than the people around him. This meant that after the PC's defeat, he didn't have a golden parachute waiting for him, and was at loose ends. Louise got him named to a fact-finding mission in Burundi in 1997, which is when the novel begins...

I've been thinking of Thomas a lot these last few days as Mulroney testifies about whether or not he did anything wrong in accepting a wad of cash from Karlheinz Schreiber. His answers are wonders of evasion. Thomas was right to hang back at the end when obviously a lot of people were looking out for number one. Too bad he hasn't lived as well as Mulroney has since.

And what was his fate, exactly? Well, you'll just have to read the book to find out.

Thursday, 14 May 2009

The Right to Wear Religious Symbols to Work: Does That Include the Hidjab as Well as the Yamulke?

This week there's much talk about whether women in government service in Quebec should be allowed to wear the hidjab while on the job. The Féderation des femmes du Québec came out on the weekend for the right of Muslim women to do so, prompting a debate in the provincial legislature. Parti Québécois leader Pauline Marois fell all over herself saying that the Muslim head scarf is a sign of the domination of women, and should be allowed. Christine St-Pierre waffled a bit, but said that what was important was that separation of church and state be maintained, not whether people were allowed to wear religious symbols.

That seems to me to be the right stance. If you outlaw the hidjab, you should also outlaw the yarmulke, the kurpin and the cross if you’re going to be consistent. That’s what France has done, in fact, but here we have Supreme Court decisions stating that principles of religious freed require that people be allowed to do wear symbols of their faith.

Besides, don’t forget that the head scarf doesn’t interfere with the free expression of a large majority of women who wear one. If you doubt that, take a look at the number of bright young women in medical school and elsewhere who wear hidjab or the pains hidjab-wearing women go to in order to be attractive. As I’ve said before here, hidjab-wearing contains a large element of fashion.

Wednesday, 13 May 2009

Mother's Day Is Every Day: The Video

It's a bit late, but then I always thought Mother's Day was better celebrated spontaneously rather than when the stores think we should. Elin and Lukas
laughed when I sent this to them but added their own comments when I suggested that I never sounded like this.

Lukas: On the contrary, you said everything at least once.

Elin: Yeah, but you didn't have a back-up band!

Oh well, they survived--and so did I. And they cooked barbecue for us last weekend, perhaps to celebrate the fact that we all made it through.

Tuesday, 12 May 2009

The Conservatives Are Winning Their Guerilla War against Economic Stimulus: Canada Is Not Heading out of the Recession

The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development and a bunch of big banks announced yesterday that the world economy is turning around. China, Italy, the UK and France are leading the way, but Canada is nowhere to be seen. The news is reported everywhere this morning on radio and in the newspapers, but I’ve only found interesting comments about why this is so on the Radio Canada Première chaine hourly news.

The Liberals and NDP point out that most of the projects which were supposed to relaunch the Canadian economy and for which $ 4 billion has already been approved, are still awaiting the go-ahead. One of the big reasons is the fact that cities and towns who are supposed to cough up two-thirds of the projects’ costs in most cases, are running on empty, Thomas Mulcair, the NDP’s finance critic, said. The Liberals’ finance critic John MacCallum is quoted as saying that the government simply “has not succeeded in getting the money out the door.”

Stephen and the boys don’t want to spend the money, is what it amounts to, I think. They included the funds in the budget they brought down under extreme duress in February, remember. They didn't make it any easier for cities to finance capital improvements, too.

Just as they have a science minister who won’t say whether he subscribes to the Darwinian evolutionary paradigm “for religious reasons” and are cutting science funds left and right, they are trying to avoid economic stimulus by dragging their feet because it doesn’t fit their ideology. If you can’t win in an open fight, you try to win by stealth. Might be good in warfare, but it shouldn’t happen in government.

Monday, 11 May 2009

Leadership and Democracy: Getting the Balance Right between Political Power and People Power

This year will be the one for municipal elections in Montreal, and it already all sorts of players getting involved. The current administration’s popularity is in decline following a number of conflict-of-interest revelations. But over and above mistakes and mis-steps, the very form of city governance is in question.

Last week at a conference on effective cities, a number of figures called for more centralized government. Since the merger of several suburbs on the island with the larger city in 2002, some responsibility for decision-making has been given to borough councils. Critics say this has led to dithering and lack of control, while others point out that for the first time residents have a large say in local zoning and other decisions.

The municipal party which is most adamant in its support of participatory government, is Projet Montréal. Nevertheless its founder and leader Richard Bergeron published a long and surprising piece in Saturday’s Le Devoir about Jean Drapeau, the mayor of Montreal who brought us the Métro, Expo and the Olympics.

Drapeau was a martinet who governed by decree. He began as a reformer, taking on organized crime and general tolerance of prostitution and late night clubs. He rapidly became a civic visionary who brooked no argument: the October Crisis of 1970 was manipulated by him (and some say, instigated by him) to win 52 of 52 seats on the city council. He didn’t commission environmental impact reports, he built and worried about finances later.

Bergeron more than gives Drapeau his due: Montreal would not be the interesting, walkable city it is today were it not for the Métro, he points out. There is an up-side to governing without opposition because you can get things done. The problem comes when what you want to do isn’t wise—in other words, the classic problem of the philosopher king.

I don’t think Bergeron condemned this weakness of Drapeau strongly enough, but it is good to be reminded how complicated good government is. Strong leaders or strong people? How to reconcile them?

As I prepare for my trip to Portugal to research another book, I find myself face to face with that problem. Was the Marques de Pombal, who rebuilt Lisbon after the devastating earthquake of 1755, a dictator or a visionary? When did Salazar, brought into office as a reformer to make sense of a chaotic situation, step over the line to become a despot? How to give leaders the power to get things done while safeguarding democratic discourse and civil society?

More later: this is not a problem that will be answered this lovely morning, even though one can see as far as the horizon in the clear air.

Saturday, 9 May 2009

Saturday Photo: The Force That Through the Green Fuse Drives the Flower

This week the leaves unfurled on nearly all the trees, a truly magical awakening. I am always reminded of Dylan Thomas's poem at this time of year. Its first lines are among the few that I have memorized:

"The force that through the green fuse drives the flower
Drives my green age. "

When I first read it, I was indeed in my green age, and I loved the image of life pushing up into the light. The next lines made no impresson on me, however:

"that blasts the roots of trees
Is my destroyer.
And I am dumb to tell the crooked rose
My youth is bent by the same wintry fever.
"

Thomas was 39 when he died, and I, at this point, am much older. The circle of life is beginning to become clear to me, but he must have seen it at a much younger age--a far too young age.

Poets sometimes are the lightning rods for the thunder of understanding. Do the rest of us spend too much time looking for shelter from the storms of life?

Friday, 8 May 2009

Good Government and Good Sense: Getting Back to Basics in Montreal

A bunch of academics have been talking about what makes a successful city at a conference in Montreal these past few days. The topic is “Great Cities: Locomotives of National Economic Development,” and much talk about encouraging creativity, and research has been heard.

One of the most interesting points of views was presented yesterday by Richard Shearmur, professor at the l'INRS Urbanisation, Culture et Société, (Institute national de recherche scientifique.) Le Devoir quotes him as telling a workshop on what makes a city work that, while economists say a city’s success can be measured by the GDP per capita, that view doesn’t take into account income disparities within a city. Good public transit and a strong basic education system are necessary for building a successful city, he said.

That’s common sense, Le Devoir notes. But it's sense that sometimes gets buried under flashier ideas about cutting edge industry, tax policy and strategic investment. I’d add honesty in public officials as a necessary ingredient too. We’ve had a rash of revelations about conflict of interest and possible corruption on the provincial and municipal level lately. They are damaging not only because of the tax dollars wasted and the good projects possibly overlooked in favor of not-so-good ones, but also because they stain the whole idea that good, effective government is possible. And good government is what we need now, more than ever.

Thursday, 7 May 2009

Turn It Down! High Volumes Can Damage Hearing in Teens

It’s happened twice in the last 10 days: early in the evening I’ve been downtown and been startled by shouting young men. In both cases, they’ve been white and neatly but casually dressed, getting out of cars or standing on the street, discussing something. There was no fight, no giant television screen nearby showing an exciting sporting event, no apparent reason at all. And the hour was so early that sheer alcohol-fueled exuberance seemed unlikely.

The reason, I’ve decided, was that they were hearing impaired, and have grown accustomed to talking loudly. Too much iPod or Walkman listening, too many hours with ear plugs in and the bass cranked up.

Sound far-fetched? Lee raised his eyebrows skeptically, but the media are now reporting on an article in the medical journal Pediatrics, calling for limits on the decibels that the personal listening devices can deliver.

The researchers found in a study of secondary students in Holland that teens said they often played their MP3 players at maximum volume. They knew that high volumes could create hearing loss, but most said that “they would not accept any interference with their music-exposure habits.” The article suggests that public health campaigns may change attitudes, but manufacturers and governments also have a role to play.

As it happened, on my way home yesterday afternoon—and well before I’d heard news of the article—I sat next to a young woman on the bus who was playing a Walkman so loudly I could clearly hear it too. After 10 minutes of irritation--I found her noise more bothersome than that of a group of fifth graders coming back from a field trip who were also in the bus--I tried to catch her attention, but of course she couldn’t hear me. Finally I tapped her forearm and said, once she’d taken off the ear plugs, that if she was playing music loud enough for me to hear, it was loud enough to severely damage her hearing over time.

“My ears are fine,” she said, huffily, and put her plugs in. But after five minutes—perhaps at the end of the CD—she packed things up and put them in her backpack.

I hope she heard the story on the news this morning— for her own sake and for my own street cred, and for that of cranky old folks everywhere too.

Wednesday, 6 May 2009

Robertson Versus Thomson Settlement: Great News for Writers, But What's a Fair Contract?

More good news on the electronic rights front: Heather Robertson and The Globe and Mail etc. have reached a settlement on payment for unauthorized electronic use of freelancers’ work. The case, you’ll remember, went all the way to the Supreme Court, which found that freelancers’ do own copyright unless expressly relinquished.

Just what the terms are should become clearer on the weekend when there will be legal notices in the Globe and the National Post. At the moment, the figure of $11 million is what’s being talked about. That’s a tidy sum which should cover a lot of back payment.


Robertson and her lawyers deserve much credit (and thanks from writers) for the long, tough battle they fought. The only disquieting things come in the fact that the defendants made no admission of wrongdoing, and in the quote from Sue Gaudi, the Globe's vice-president general counsel: "It is primarily a historical matter from the days before The Globe and Mail entered into written contracts with our freelance contributors. We value our relationships with our freelancers and are happy to move on."

Decent contracts are one of the items high on the list of concerns in a similar case against The Gazette and several other corporations, which I'm involved in. The Electronic Rights Defence Committee just received authorization to proceed to class action, claiming not only unauthorized electronic use of articles but also forced signing of unfair contracts.

To be continued, for sure.

Tuesday, 5 May 2009

Why Be Beautiful? And How? Questions Which Feminists Can't Ignore

In the run up to the Iranian elections, Radio Canada this morning had a short item about a young woman who will vote for the first time. She’s 23, lives at home, and puts on make up in public washrooms with her friends when she goes out. Her parents wouldn’t approve, but the young women think it’s cool and are willing to risk being stopped by the morality police for unIslamic behavior.

The desire to appear beautiful in the eyes of males and one’s female friends is something that I understand on one level, having spent far too much time wearing high heeled shoes. (One of the pleasure of advancing age is not worrying about wearing low heels or even, gasp!, comfortable shoes.) Attractive women wore them, so I thought I should too. But what a strange business: why should tottering around attract?

There is a feminist discourse that says that high heels make women vulnerable and as such they are a sign of submission which appeals to males. Certainly in her most interesting novel La memoire de l'eau the Chinese-Canadian writer Ying Chen compares them to the bound feet of Chinese women for that reason.

Don’t know. But it is passing strange that women all over the world go to great lengths to conform to whatever standard of beauty is current, even risking considerable trouble with officials.

Monday, 4 May 2009

It Was a Great Week End for Jane's Walks!

Sun, crystal clear skies, good cheer all round: it was a great weekend for the Jane's Walks in Montreal. The news I've heard from other guides is all positive, and the two we had in Outemont were extremely successful.

The only problem, actually, was due to perhaps too much success as well as some bugs in the reservation system. I only had a dozen reservations for Saturday, but I made 15 of the handouts you see to the right anyway. What a surprise when somewhere betwee 30 and 35 people showed up!

On Sunday, fore-warned being fore-armed but still taking into account the fact that I had fewer reservations for that walk, I printed out 30. People kept arriving though, and at one point I counted at least 45.

That's the upper limit for a comfortable walk: I had difficulty projecting my voice and at one of the stops the traffic noise was pretty intense. But few people got discouraged--in fact, I think we may have had more people at the end than at the beginning, as Sunday strollers decided to tag along.

Outremont is a neighborhood that Jane Jacobs would approve of, part of a real Walkable City. I was able to talk a bit about the history and also to recount the way a plan to build highrise apartments on an old farm and make a park of a triplex section was beaten back. The farm is now a busy urban park, and on the weekend the street life in the rescued section attested to what people can make of a neighborhood when you give them the chance.

Saturday, 2 May 2009

Saturday Photo: Sun and Spring Trees

The first week in May sees an enormous change in the landscape here: the trees leaf out. The first tiny leaflets may appear earlier--and did this year when we had a few days of very warm weather. But as long as we've lived here, I've never seen full-blown leaves cover the trees before May 3.

This morning is gorgeously clear and a little cool. A grand day for a Jane's Walk! And a good day to watch the leaves appear.

As we used to sing at summer camp:

To ope their trunks the trees are never seen.
How then do they put on their robes of green?
They leave them out.
They leave them out.

Friday, 1 May 2009

May Day: Time to Think about Books for Next Season

Today's the day I must get to work on choosing books and dates for next season's book discussions. Librarians have to deal with municipal bureaucracies and it seems the wheels grind exceedingly slow. Announcements for next fall's reading series must be to whomever is responsible for communication by the end of May at two of the four libraries where I lead book groups, and once one has begun thinking about the fall, one might as well do the whole 2009-2010 season.

I've asked members of the various groups to bring suggestions to our May meetings, but, of course, I'll have my own list to suggest too. Here's what I've come up with so far: all excellent reads and all good discussion material.

For the English groups:

The Elegance of the Hedgehog
by Muriel Barbery
The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy
Distantly Related to Freud by Ann Charney
The Heart Specialist by Claire Holden Rothman
Mr. Pip by Lloyd Jones
The Old Man Who Read Love Stories by Luis Sepulveda
Fault Lines by Nancy Huston
The Reader by Bernhard Schlink
The Celllist of Sarjevo by Steven Galloway
Lives of the Saints by Nino Ricci
Deaf Sentence by David Lodge
Amsterdam by Ian McEwan
Late Nights on Air by Elizabeth Hay
Earth and High Heaven by Gwethalyn Graham

For the French groups:

Kamouraska de Anne Hébert
Champagne de Monique Proulx
Mr. Pip de Lloyd Jones
Le Vieux qui lisait des romans d'amour de Luis Sepulveda
La Fille laide de Yves Theriault
Le Liseur de Bernhard Schlink
La Saga des Béothuks de Bernard Assiniwi
Barrage contre le Pacifique de Marguerite Duras
L’Attenat de Yasmina Khadra
L’étranger de Albert Camus
Une soirée Le Clezio : chacun(e) lit un livre du lauréat Nobel, et nous partagerons nos impressions

My criteria? About equal representaton between men and women writers, at least one translated from the other official language, at least one from some culture other than French or English North America, something that is not recent, and something that will make a splash--and, perhaps most importantly since I can be a bit of a martinet, the fact that I like it or have liked books by the author in the past.