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Call from the North – ONfr+

Reading time : 4 minutes

Every Saturday, ONFR+ offers a column on Franco-Ontarian news and culture. This week, place for literature with the author Monia Mazigh.


I’m a girl from the south… Well, that’s not entirely true. Admittedly, I am from North Africa, but for my fellow Canadians, this region is part of the south of our globe. And even though today I live in Ottawa, 4,900 km from the North Pole, for the people of Sudbury, my Ottawa residence makes me a southern girl.

All that to say that the south and the north are always relative. It all depends on who or what is south. One thing is certain: once I got to the new Place des Arts in Sudbury, I felt very warm, lulled by the poetry, lit by the literary interviews and held spellbound by the tales told in the well-known way. typical of northerners.

From my first visit to the Greater Sudbury Bookfair over a decade ago, to my second visit a few years ago, a lot has changed. Or, frankly, a lot of snow fell. Of course, I can’t help but describe the beautiful and flamboyant Place des Arts, a place where words and the stage meet.

A pride that I believed to detect in the eyes of several artists of the city but also that I could recognize in the smiles of the visitors whom I saw arriving in small groups accompanied by their children, friends and grandparents. It almost seems like a family affair and why not villages and communities. What a deserved accomplishment.

During these three days of intense intellectual activity, I had the chance to meet new authors from Ontario. Of course, a column would not be enough to spread out the literary spoils of these few days and all these discoveries, but I promised myself to share them with you in the coming months and to give you a taste of them.

A journey through time through several countries

For this column, I have chosen to take you on a journey not quite to the south but rather, a time travel through several countries, including Russia, Turkey, Syria and Lebanon in the 1930s. of the past century. This is exactly what Lamara Papitashvili, an author from Toronto, does in her novel entitled Farewell Stalin. A quest for freedom that turns into dangerous adventures for two young men from Georgia, Témour and Llia, under the iron fist of Stalin’s regime.

Can we really pursue our youthful dreams when the police control everyone’s whereabouts, when suspicion becomes second nature, when denunciation is a livelihood for some or when music and the arts are signs ashamed of the bourgeoisie that had to be fought at all times? Only flight becomes the answer and with it, fear, loss of roots, misery and sometimes death.

Papitashvili transports us from the perilous high mountains of the Caucasus to the snowy city of Kars at the time of the new Turkish Republic, which Témour describes in his words: “I felt like I was between two worlds, not quite in Muslim Turkey, but somewhere between an Armenian and a Georgian past”. Then cross Syria taken under a French mandate to finally arrive at the sea and the port of Beirut. A forced journey, a heartbreaking departure from his family but a solid friendship and a world in perpetual deconstruction and reconstruction where wars, conflicts are never too far away and their terrible and harsh consequences on people.

Even though the events in Papitashvili’s book take place in the first half of the last century, many times I thought it was a current story. Wars, authoritarianism, refugees and uprooting. All themes which unfortunately have not disappeared from our times and which affect us all to different degrees, both people of the North and of the South. A humanity that is still looking for itself and Lamara Papitashvili only reminds us with her novel that “history does not repeat itself, it stutters” as a certain Karl Marx would have said.

Surprising Greater Sudbury Book Fair

In any case, it is with great interest that I read this novel by Papitashvili which only weaves a bridge between a painful past and a staggering present that is still being built with hints of hope of which Papitashvili is capable to make us feel them, as when she describes Llia’s daily life “every morning, he drinks his black tea, sweeping the pages of his diary which he picks up on his porch, with peace of mind”.

In the end, don’t we all travel thousands of kilometers on foot as Témour and Llia did or by boat, car or plane, precisely to savor these innocuous gestures and breathe in the roses. Trips from south to north or vice versa to find a lover, earn a living and breathe freedom?

The two planes I took from Ottawa to Toronto and then from Toronto to Sudbury allowed me to climb north. See the majestic light again. Shiver in the Nordic breeze. Hearing the whistle of the freight train and its cars in single file reminds me that Canada is a vast country connected by an east-west railway. Another axis. Another geography.

These kilometers of travel made me discover people who read, think and tell stories. Once again, the Greater Sudbury Book Fair surprised me, pampered me and above all taught me a lot. On me, the girl from the south, but also on authors who begin or continue their literary path. Thank you Sudbury.

The opinions expressed in this article are the sole responsibility of their authors and do not reflect the position of ONFR+ and Groupe Média TFO.

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