Time to read : 4 minutes
Every Saturday, ONFR+ offers a column on Franco-Ontarian news and culture. This week, place for literature with the author Monia Mazigh.
[LA CHRONIQUE DE MONIA MAZIGH]
If there is one happiness in being a writer, it is that there are two. The first is to visit book fairs and meet new readers, obviously after the pandemic, and the second is to meet new writers and their works.
During the Toronto Book Fair, which took place face to face between March 19 and 20, I was presented with these two gifts.
The first time I was invited to the Toronto Book Fair was a little over a decade ago. I was beginning my little journey as a Franco-Ontarian author. A great challenge because I didn’t go to “the school of writers” but I also wanted to make a place for myself in literature without going through Montreal. Quite a challenge.
The Toronto Book Fair is a small fair, in terms of area and number of visitors, certainly, especially if we compare it with the great book fairs of this world, but it is still an ambitious, active and, above all, persevering fair. At the time, I was standing on a floor of the massive Toronto Public Library (Toronto Reference Library). But in its latest edition, I had the pleasure of seeing my author friends again at the University of French Ontario.
A feeling of both fever and implausibility ran through my body and mind because from the moment I heard about the challenges and controversies of the University of French Ontario on the news, I almost thought it would be a dream and never a reality. but my presence in the agora of these places reassured me. This university does exist, not in dreams but in reality and above all with an open and bright architecture that contrasts with the often dark and closed environments of certain places of knowledge.
It is participating in a panel titled Literary heritage, a future of our past?, that I met a writer from Toronto, Tassia Trifiatis-Tezgel. She intrigued me when during our exchanges on the subject she mentioned the word “mandate” alluding to our life in every corner of the earth being a kind of mandate that we fulfill and then pass on to another and so on. . A way that seemed a bit strange to me but also innovative to think about our “murderous identities” as Amin Maalouf, the Franco-Lebanese writer, called them in his essay of the same name.
And it was in “Primordial Creatures” that I immersed myself once I returned home to Ottawa to savor the fruit of these encounters and to reap the happiness that could come from them.
Tassia Trifiatis-Tezgel reminded me of Istanbul as I knew it from the pen of the famous Turkish writer Orhan Pamuk in his magnificent book A strange feeling in my head. This complex and captivating city where the wealth and aristocracy of some neighborhoods rub shoulders with the poverty and precariousness of others and where certain minorities try to resist the roll of normalization and oppression. Sophronia, which means wise in Greek, is the name of the heroine of this story.
She is an owl-woman, she meets the book-man and the two go to fulfill a “mandate” in the city of Istanbul. While the book-man remains quite enigmatic near his books because of his search for knowledge, Sophronia declares that “the knowledge that he needs, I catch him on the street”. She then goes on to say, “Yo, I need sidewalk knowledge.”
Therefore, among other things, taking the “vapur”, this kind of picturesque ferry that transports the inhabitants of Istanbul between the waters of the Bosphorus and the Sea of Marmara, Sofronia will get to know historical places and especially people. A thousand-year-old knowledge hidden in multiple layers of traditions, architecture and languages of the eyes.
Arriving in Toronto, Sofronia carries out another “mandate” in search of the aboriginal roots of this city without forgetting her own roots and especially her character as an owl-woman. This second mandate takes place in labor pains in a literal and figurative sense.
Although I sometimes had some difficulty understanding and following Sophronia’s story, especially when she talked about Toronto and her new life, I caught up with her towards the end by discovering the symbolic and philosophical meaning of her writing. Tassia Trifiatis-Tezgel and her book “Primordial Creatures” kept me hooked until the end. An intelligent reflection on the meaning of our life, on human relationships, on our roots and also on motherhood which always remains a fascinating subject that can be approached in different ways, the “mandate” is one of them, as it does magnificently Tassia Trifiatis-Tezgel in her book.
And that’s why here I am delighted with the Toronto Book Fair in its latest edition. A rich and brave edition in a world still plagued by COVID and the consequences it left us after repetitive confinements and the erosion of our social relationships.
In a few weeks, I’ll be in Sudbury for the Greater Sudbury Book Fair. Another show that remains emblematic of our vast and wealthy francophone Ontario. The first time I went there was at Hearst University because the fair alternates between the city of Hearst and Sudbury.
Another place of knowledge and another encounter with readers and authors who would otherwise take other rare opportunities for me to discover them. I am already looking forward to carrying out this new “mandate” the Sophronian way. Meet people and books.
The opinions expressed in this article are the sole responsibility of its authors and do not reflect the position of ONFR+ and Groupe Média TFO.