A montage of images representing the Maison de la littérature (House of Literature) in Quebec City, Canada. One of many exceptional learning centers in the Great Lakes / St. Lawrence River region. https://www-maisondelalitterature-qc-ca.translate.goog/?_x_tr_sl=fr&_x_tr_tl=en&_x_tr_hl=en&_x_tr_pto=sc
After waiting nearly two years and nine months due to COVID-19 travel restrictions, we flew to Québec City in late September to visit the House of Literature (Maison de la littérature). One of 26 public libraries in the provincial capital city, the Maison is a library in the traditional sense with shelves of books and reading desks, but it is also a performance and exhibition space, home to poetry readings, musical performances, art installations and literary residencies for people from around the globe.
We rescheduled the journey twice before visiting Québec. Through it all we received encouragement from Dominique Lemieux, the Maison’s former Director. Dominique is now director of all public libraries in the city. He and the four writers and artists we interviewed for the project were supportive of our plan to feature learning centers of the Great Lakes/St. Lawrence River region. And where better to begin than with Québec City? Founded in 1608, the cradle of New France (La Nouvelle France) was home base for generations of persons who traveled from the Old World on voyages of discovery and to improve their lives. Dominique and the Maison’s new director, Valérie Lambert, welcomed us with a tour of the building as well as a portfolio of photos presenting a timeline of the Maison’s transformation from a historic church into a contemporary library. Merci Québec!
A native of southwest France, illustrator Tiphaine Gantheil, traveled to Québec City with designer Timothée Morisse for a co-residency sponsored by the Maison de la littérature and ALCA Nouvelle-Aquitaine. Tiphaine and Timothée spent two months at the Maison creating a book titled, Juliette n’est pas normale (Juliette is not normal). The following are excerpts from a recorded interview for the Celebrate Libraries Podcast.
“In Québec I worked with Timothée on this book, which is a book for teenagers. It’s about this girl of 10 or 11 years old, Juliette, who is a little bit different and I think she is looking for a kind of home. She has a home. She is living with her family. But she is looking, I think, for people or a place where she feels like she belongs to this place and to this group of people. And for me this is a big subject in my life, to find a safe place. Like a home for me is really a safe place. Where you can be yourself without judgement. Juliette is a bit different in the way that she, and I don’t like this word, but she is “gifted” or “high potential.” It’s not that she is more intelligent. It’s that her brain is working a bit differently, faster sometimes and slower at other times. She has a feeling of not being connected to these kids (classmates). Probably more connected to animals and nature. She has a high sensitivity to noises and people and she needs to have a quiet space around her.”
“It was a work of…just creation…creating a book…and it was totally free. It was really a pleasant residency.”
Tiphaine Gantheil https://tiphainegantheil.ultra-book.com/
The novel A Knife in the Sky by Haitian-born author Marie-Célie Agnant of Montréal has been issued by Inanna Publications of Toronto. The book is an English translation of Agnant’s Femmes au temps des carnassiers from 2015. Translated by Katia Grubisic, the novel is the result of a residency collaboration between LTAC (Literary Translators’ Association of Canada) and the Maison de la littérature. For more information:
Mireille Gagné, Canadienne poet and author of Le lièvre d’amérique (Snowshoe Hare), reflects on public support for French-language literature in the following excerpt from an audio interview with Jon and Robin Voils for the Celebrate Libraries Podcast.
“What is really interesting in Québec City is that there’s a lot of people that are interested by the literature and they go to see show(s), you know? I remember when I participate(d) two years ago at the Nuit de la poésie–Night of Poetry. The place was completely full for like three and four hours. It was like almost 500 people that were listening about poetry. I think that it’s marvelous for a writer. But you know, it’s good to have the door open with the public. It’s not happening all the time, you know? And when you have it you need to cherish it.”
Mireille Gagné https://www.mireillegagne.com/
Award-winning author Christiane Vadnais of Québec City was interviewed for the Celebrate Libraries Podcast. She talks about her novel Fauna and support for literature in Québec. An excerpt of the interview follows.
“I feel we are in a very welcoming place to write. Because of our story as French-speaking people in an English environment, we as a society invested a lot in culture, in artists, and so we have a great support here in Québec and in Canada to write…to create. I feel very lucky.”
Christiane Vadnais https://www.christianevadnais.com/english.html
Cities located along the Great Lakes have a tradition of installing outdoor sculpture in public places to commemorate important events or memorialize individuals who have had an impact on the community.
Both abstract and figural in nature, and often large-scale, the monuments grace parkland and town square alike. They often attain an iconic visual distinction and come to represent, to the world, a specific urban area.
Examples include Detroit’s “Monument to Joe Louis” aka “The Fist” by Robert Graham in Hart Plaza or Anish Kapoor’s reflective “Cloud Gate” (The Bean) in Chicago’s Millennium Park.
The Great Lakes provide a backdrop for sculpture located in smaller cities as well. “Spirit of the Rivers,” by R. T. “Skip” Wallen is situated beside Mariners Trail on the lake road connecting Manitowoc and Two Rivers, Wisconsin.
Zachary Oxman’s “Fantastical Traveler” depicts Waukegan-born American author Ray Bradbury astride a rocket ship. The statue is installed on the entrance plaza of Waukegan Public Library near the Lake Michigan shore in Northeastern Illinois.
The artwork by Wallen and Oxman are featured in Celebrate Libraries® videos which developed from projects spotlighting public libraries in Two Rivers and Waukegan.
Thanks to Lester Public Library Director Jeff Dawson in Two Rivers for sharing his knowledge of the origins of the “Spirit of the Rivers” project.
For more information:
With the upcoming Québec City project, Celebrate Libraries® builds upon the work we began in 2015 and accepts the challenge to form the essence of a new vision.
Explore exceptional learning centers in the Great Lakes Basin with Celebrate Libraries®