Those immersed in Montreal’s literary scene know there’s more to it than the recognizable heavy hitters: Mordecai Richler, Leonard Cohen and Michel Tremblay. But on the outside, it seemed at times like all the action (at least in Anglo Canada) was happening elsewhere. Then came Heather O’Neill, Madeleine Thien, Jacob Wren, Rawi Hage, Kim Thuy, Éric Dupont and Paige Cooper, and 2018 became the Year of the Montreal Anglo Renaissance. Several of the city’s authors were either longlisted or shortlisted for a Governor-General’s Award or the Giller. Equally impressive was the emergence of new writers. With its unique bilingual culture, Montreal’s vibrant literary scene can often slip under the radar for readers in Canada’s other solitude. Here’s a primer on the writers, publishers, reviews and bookstores you should check out to help bolster your know-how of Montreal’s literary community.
Julie Doucet Her decade long work, Dirty Plotte: The Complete Julie Doucet, has been released by Drawn and Quarterly in a box set.
Drawn and Quarterly was founded in 1989 and continues to publish some of the city’s fabled cartoonists from its headquarters within the Mile End neighbourhood. In 2018, the publisher garnered international attention with Nick Drnaso’s Sabrina, which was longlisted for the Man Booker Prize for fiction – the first time a graphic novel had ever been nominated.
The iconic literary institution Librairie Drawn and Quarterly – a sister company of the graphic novel publishing house – is one of Montreal’s most beloved independent bookstores and is home to many of the city’s literary events. In 2018, Librairie Drawn and Quarterly opened a secondary location across the street, La Petite Librairie Drawn and Quarterly, which caters to children’s and young adult literature, and whose expanded space serves as the host for most Librairie Drawn and Quarterly events.
And the city’s unique bilingualism offers a wealth of beautiful work for translators and francophone publishing houses. Drawn and Quarterly, for example, is in the company of many francophone graphic novel publishing peers: Éditions Pow Wow and La Pastèque continue to serve the local graphic novel community as well. In fact, La Pastèque recently opened doors to a new store and workshop location in the heart of Mile End. Francophone publishers such as Les Éditions de l'Écrou offer a similar mandate as Metatron, with the intent of promoting alternative literature, as well as Triptyque Publishing, which was the first to translate Maggie Nelson’s The Argonauts. Quebec Fiction is up to the task of its translation work, intent on promoting overlooked talent divided by language barriers.