Monday, 21 September 2009

Sunday on the Main, Portuguese Literature on Display

Yesterday was warm and sunny September afternoon in Montreal, one of those gifts that often arrive in this northern climate. I spent a good part of it with a group of Lusophiles and book lovers, strolling along St. Lawrence boulevard, the Main, in an event sponsored by the Festival international de littérature.

Last spring on the 35th anniversary of the Carnation Revolution, 12 benches inscribed with quotes from 12 Portuguese literary figures from Dom Dinis, the troubadour king of the 13th century, to Antonio Lobo Antunes and José Saramago, the current literary giants, were installed along the Main. For more than 100 years the neighborhood has been the immigrant gateway to Montreal—Saul Bellow’s family lived there when he was a child—and the Portuguese have given it its flavour since the 1960s. As the Sunday crowds swirled by Vitilia Rodrigues told of the great writers of Portugal, and what they had contributed to both world literature and the glory of Lusophonie.

It was a great experience, and one which introduced me to some new writers. I'd never heard of
José Maria Eça de Queirós, but after hearing that some French critics think he is the equal of Zola, I plan on going looking for his work.

Each bench, by the way, is decorated by ceramic tiles by a local artist, a contemporary take on the Portuguese azulejos tradition. I particularly like the work of Joseph Branco.

No comments: