Montreal is a rich and vibrant city. It is known for being the most European hub in North America. It also welcomes the largest Lebanese community in Canada, according to the latest census in the metropolitan area. It is then not surprising to learn that more than 44,000 people, of Lebanese origin, made Montreal their new HOME. That is why it is often called the second capital of Lebanon.
Although occupations filled by Canadian Lebanese are skewed significantly towards the business, management and commerce fields and many are employed in the health sector; the cultural impact of people of Lebanese origin in Quebec is very significant. Indeed, a large number are very active in various domains, including fiction, poetry, theater, technical and scientific production.
This is how the Lebanese Consul General in Montreal, His Excellency Fadi Ziadeh, came to realize that it is time to reunite all these influential actors into an association. The idea sprung from discussions about Montreal being a French hub for fiction and non-fiction production in North America, and Lebanon an active disseminator of French literature and cultural material in the Middle East. Thus, he asked a few thinkers to meet in order to discuss the possibility of creating a space for Lebanese writers in Quebec to connect, exchange ideas, and learn about publishing, promoting and profiting from the book industry. Hence, the first meeting took place at the Consulate General, in January 2016, to establish the name, the objectives and the by laws for the association to be created. Founding members included Dr. Sami Aoun, professor of political science at Université de Sherbrooke and an expert on Middle East issues, Pierre Ahmaranian, Head of the Arabic section at Radio-Canada and professor of Arabic at Université de Montreal, Salah Al-Achqar, poet, Joe Jbeily, businessman, writer and sculptor, and Frida Anbar, author and International Relations officer at Université de Montréal.
After several meetings and many debates, the name of the association was finally chosen: Circle of Lebanese Writers in Québec, Cercle des écrivains Libanais du Québec – CELQ. Since the young organization was to include anyone who published a book in Arabic, English or in French, and not only literary material, the metaphor of the circle was unanimously chosen to represent unity and eternal life of the works. The official launch was held on April 15, 2016, at the Consulate General of Lebanon in Montreal in the presence of the Quebec Minister of Higher Education, Hélène David.
CELQ aims to promote and disseminate the writings of Lebanese authors in Quebec, Canada and abroad. It also provides its members with a series of activities and services. They benefit from networking events, tips for editing, printing and selling novels, advice and expertise for self-publishing, access to the list of prizes, scholarships and grants from the regional, provincial and national government. It also includes incentives to participate in book fairs, seminars and conferences.
As stated by Fadi Ziadeh: “With the CELQ, we want to establish a full collaboration between Lebanese writers in Quebec and those who are in Lebanon. We also wish to project in Quebec the rich cultural activities of Lebanese authors and vice versa.”
“To connect writers and thinkers in Quebec with their counterparts in Lebanon.”
Speaking about the new group, he adds: “This association is headed by one of its founders, Dr. Sami Aoun. It includes over seventy authors and some of them in various fields. I take the opportunity to make a plea to all the Lebanese who have published books in Quebec, to contact the CELQ via the website (www. celq.ca) so they can join this wonderful family. Our major concern is also to connect writers and thinkers in Quebec with their counterparts in Lebanon by strengthening the participation of Lebanon and Quebec in the francophone arena and in the book fairs both in Montreal and in Beirut.”
After all, the first Arabic printing press was founded in Lebanon in 1734 and it represented the first one in the Middle East. Way back then, the letters were de-bossed inside the paper so one could detect the imprint of the ink. Today, the imprint is carried by the words. They are proud and strong ones because they honor the legacy of the country of the cedars. As Lebanon shines, the writings of its descendants soar. Hasn’t it been stated that the word is mightier than the sword and that in the beginning was the word?