Saturday, April 23, 2011

Eastern Europe Today

Eastern Europe is one region that has always fascinated me. I backpacked through Poland and the Baltics, the Czech Republic and Hungary back when I was in my late 20s and the people I met and the experiences I had make up some of the most memorable of my life. It was a fascinating time to be there since the countries were still at a crossroads between shaking off the restrictions that only a few years earlier had defined so much of life there; yet the market hadn't quite saturated into every corner. Whenever I have returned to this region in the years since, I naturally compare it to how I perceived it when I first went through, and I gauge the changes by colors people wear, the TV they watch, the ads they are bombarded with. More and more, Eastern Europe starts to look like anywhere else in the world: with, perhaps, slightly better architecture and slightly lower air quality.

Since 1989 and the subsequent changes that swept across the continent, Eastern Europe has radically changed and become both a vital and integrated partner in the modern world, yet still retaining some aspects of its old bureacratic and stultified system. Blue Met looks closely at Eastern Europe in our Saturday afternoon panel, April 30th, at 3pm, Eastern European Stories: Private and Public Lives.

Featuring writers with works either set in or focused on some region of Eastern Europe, the discussion will centre around what makes Eastern Europe a challenging and creatively inspiring place to write in and about.

Anna Porter will discuss her award-winning book Ghosts of Europe (winner of the Shaughnessy Cohen Prize) and her exploration of the forces which continue to shape these countries.

Krakow, Poland
Daniel Allen Cox will talk about his choice to set his novel, Krakow Melt (finalist for a Lambda Literary Award), in the rough and tumble suburbs of this Polish city and what it meant to take on the persona of a bisexual and fire-obsessed character in this context. What does it mean for a Canadian to write from a Polish perspective or, indeed, does it make any difference at all?

Crotian native, Josip Novakovich will talk about his most recent work, Three Deaths, a novella with three intriguing stories that explore the effects of three specific deaths on the people left behind. Novakovich, a recent Montreal transplant, continues to challenge and explore his homeland and his latest work continues raising fascinating questions about what it means to be a citizen of the world from Eastern Europe today.

Belgrade, Serbia
The panel will be hosted by David Homel, a writer and journalist who has written on and reported from Eastern Europe widely in the past. His 2003 novel The Speaking Cure, set in 1990s Serbia, again written from the perspective of a local (in this case, a Serbian psychiatrist), considers how speaking is both freeing and limiting when one is attempting to heal from trauma.

This event is held on Saturday, April 30th, at 3pm at the Holiday Inn Select - Centreville, 99 Viger West in Montreal. Get your tickets here.

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