Thursday, May 10, 2012

Grand amateur

Last year I was very fortunate to attend the comics festival in Angouleme. This year I am heading to St Malo for a few days to attend the √Čtonnants Voyageurs (Amazing Travellers) International Writers and Film Festival.

The event in Brittany is held over four days, including a schools day, from May 25-28. The Melbourne Writers Festival is part of a group called the Word Alliance, a network of leading literary festivals that includes Edinburgh, Toronto, Jaipur, Beijing and St Malo. My trip is to meet with the directors of other festivals (although I am a program manager, not the director!), and to plan ways that we can work together to create stronger programs and increase international participation.

It's fair to say that I am just a little bit excited. St Malo looks like an amazing place. It's the area where A Summer's Tale by Eric Rohmer, one of my favourite films was shot.

St Malo is a few kilometers from Mont St Michel. Which I won't have time to visit. Dommage.

And the festival looks amazing! It's held within the walls of St Malo, great solid granite walls that were substantially damaged in WWII, but have been restored. The program naturally has a very French flavour, though it's agenda is to challenge and extend the boundaries of what constitutes 'French' writing.  Lauren Elkin writing in The White Review gives a pretty perceptive take on the issues at stake and how the festival responds to them. Anyway, I am fascinated by the idea of a festival having an argument of sorts with its literary culture. So it will be more than interesting to see how this is played out. I look forward to meeting with the organisers of √Čtonnants Voyageurs and other Word Alliance festival folk.

The festival website provides bios for all people participating, and to my surprise, my name is there. But don't worry French people, I won't be giving any talks. Your ears are safe. But it is funny, sort of, to see myself described as 'grand amateur'. Quoi?