About the book
Montreal was the literary centre of Canada in the 1940s, a hotbed of literary activity in both English and French crowned by the international success of Hugh MacLennan's Two Solitudes and Gabrielle Roy's The Tin Flute. With the rise of nationalism in both English Canada and Quebec, Toronto emerged as the literary centre of English Canada, with Montreal the literary centre of Quebec. In literary terms, Canada and Quebec became two different countries, with two different languages and two different literatures. English Montreal went into decline and its once-great writers were marginalized.
Writing in the Time of Nationalism: From Two Solitudes to Blue Metropolis is an insider's story of the writers who have been caught between these rival nationalisms. Herself a writer, Linda Leith was a leading figure in the creation of the Quebec Writers' Federation, and she is founder of Blue Metropolis Foundation. The story she tells is the story of a literary community that went missing from the map of Canada for a generation, and that has reemerged over the past ten years in a renaissance that has garnered international attention, winning some of the major book prizes such as Booker and Dublin IMPAC.
About the author
Linda Leith was born in Belfast, Northern Ireland. One of the most international of Canadian writers, she has lived in London, Basel, Brussels, Paris, Ottawa, Budapest and Montreal, where she founded and directs the hugely successful Blue Metropolis Montreal International Literary Festival. She has a Ph.D. in English Literature from the University of London, England, and is Adjunct Professor of English at Concordia University in Montreal.
She is the author of seven books, including the literary memoirs Writing in the Time of Nationalism and Marrying Hungary, as well as three critically well-received novels, Birds of Passage, The Tragedy Queen, and The Desert Lake, all published by Signature Editions. She has also been published by Vehicule Press and ECW Press, as well as XYZ Editeur and Lemeac (in French), and Rad (in Serbian).
The story I have to tell begins in the glory days when Hugh MacLennan published Two Solitudes in 1945 and Mavis Gallant, Brian Moore, and Mordecai Richler emerged on to the international literary scene in the 1950s. It's a story that moves into a long decline in English-language Montreal fiction that started in the 1960s, when nationalism was on the rise, and lasted more than three decades. This is a literary story, in other words, and a literary story best understood in the context of the time.
It's a personal story, as well. I am not from Montreal, but I am more at home here than anywhere else, having lived here for most of the time since immigrating with my family in 1963. I became interested in Quebec, and sympathized with Quebec's frustrations and aspirations. When I started teaching and writing about the work of Montreal writers in the late 1970s and 1980s, I focused on writers working in French as well as in English, and I discovered that Montreal's English-language writers had now disappeared from sight. I got involved in working to create the context in which it would be possible for them to thrive. I myself became a writer, and when I got to know other writers, a couple of us crossed town to work with French-speaking writers. By the late 1990s, I was part of a small group convinced that Montreal needed an international literary festival that would bring together writers working in English and French and other languages. I called it Blue Metropolis.
The story I have to tell continues to evolve, as new writers, new books, and new events appear on the scene every season. It's a story worth telling, for it has a good shape, with a glorious beginning, a disheartening middle, and a better ending than any of us could have predicted. The Anglo Literary Revival is what we were working for all along, even if we never imagined it would happen.
“Quebec anglophone writers do not exist. Except for Mordecai Richler, of course. At least, that’s what francophone writers will say... The cultural and political context for that perspective is explored in Writing in the Time of Nationalism (Signature Editions) by…” >>
— Uptown Magazine
“In the 1940s, Montreal was the literary capital of Canada. Modernist poets writing in English flourished alongside internationally published realist novelists, both anglophone and francophone. The post-war boom that shifted Canada's economic centre westward to Toronto coincided with rising support…” >>
— Times Literary Supplement
“If the true purpose of literary memoirs is to settle scores and put the record straight, Linda Leith’s Writing in the Time of Nationalism: From Two Solitudes to Blue Metropolis is as true as they come.
— The Globe and Mail
“If you never thought that a book about the Anglo Literary Revival could be a page turner, it’s only because you haven’t, yet, read Linda Leith’s provocative, insightful, and thoroughly engrossing Writing in the Time of Nationalism: From Two Solitudes…” >>
— The Monitor
“I have been at the Blue Met this week, talking about From Then to Now, and I got the chance to hear Leith talk about this book. She is a central figure in what she calls the Anglo Revival --…” >>
— Christopher Moore, history author & journalist
“Writing in the Time of Nationalism: From Two Solitudes to Blue Metropolis provides an important personalized historical account of the politics and institutions that have informed the production and dissemination of Montreal English-language fiction from the mid 1960s to the…” >>
— Jason Camlot Literary Review of Canada
“Linda Leith's passionate connection to Montreal is evident in every line of this book. Combining insider knowledge and writerly insight, she takes us on the surprising journey which led to the resurgence of Anglo writing in Montreal. Few have been…” >>
— Sherry Simon, author of Translating Montreal: Episodes in the Life of a Divided City
“In her book, she gives an elaborate and highly detailed account of the possible ways and means she has used and turned to in order to realize her plan, which was to bridge linguistic and other divides between the two…” >>
— Judit Molnár Canadian Literature
“In the 1940s, Montreal was the literary capital of Canada. Modernist poets writing in English flourished alongside internationally published realist novelists, both anglophone and francophone. The post-war boom that shifted Canada's economic center westward to Toronto coincided with rising support…” >>
— Stephen Henighan The Times Literary Supplement