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ToRo Fest 2018: Multicultural Community Events Reinvented

As professor Stephen Henighan of Guelph University noted, the second edition of ToRo Fest, an International Salon of Literature, Visual Arts, Music, as well as a Romanian bookfair, was a unique event in the Canadian multicultural landscape. Indeed, we all have likely noticed that most community festivals and celebrations mainly focus on food and music specific to various countries, somewhat emphasizing the “exotic” aspects of the so-called “ethnic minorities.” In contrast, the two-day trilingual Romanian, English and French gathering, 5-6 October 2018, was dedicated to literature, arts, and culture, with an emphasis on the specific nuances of Romanian-Canadian works and with the hope of further advancing the dialogue among cultures in Toronto.

ToRo Fest 2018 was produced by Iuliana Pacso, the co-founder and managing director of Tradicious, in collaboration with the Romanian Language and Culture lectorate at Glendon College, York University, Professor Crina Bud. Since the beginning, Pacso’s initiative grew out of her desire not only to bring Romanian books to the Romanian readers from Toronto, but also to create an opportunity for Romanian-born writers to meet each other and their readers, “To bring them together, to find out why they write, how they write, and in some instances why they continue writing in Romanian.” As many as 29 authors, 4 visual artists, and 5 musicians, in addition to the representatives of Montreal-based Hashtag Editions publishing house and “Pagini Româneşti” (Romanian Pages) online bookstore, participated at over fifty events, ranging from book launches and visual arts shows to concerts, complemented by academic panels, lectures, workshops, and poetry readings, a more theoretical component organized and shaped by professor Bud with the support of her guests.

“Found in Translation: Romanian/Canadian Writers across Borders,” the panel I co-organized with her, brought together Chris Tănăsescu, Felicia Mihali, and Stephen Henighan in addition to the two of us. According to many audience members, it effectively drew the attention to the usually discreet, though hard work of translators, those who help us that know each other across language barriers. Tănăsescu, professor of Digital Humanities at the University of Ottawa, presented “US” Poets Foreign Poets (Fractalia, 2018), a bilingual anthology, which was assembled using computational algorithms by the MARGENTO collective of editors under his leadership. His reading later offered an experience fully enjoyable beyond language and semiotics. Mihali discussed her experience of self-translating her novels, from Romanian to French, „Ţara brînzei” (Image, 1999) to « Le pays du fromage » (XYZ Éditeur, 2002), or from English to French, The Darling of Kandahar (Linda Leith, 2012) to La bien-aimée de Kandahar (Linda Leith, 2016).

During my presentation, I explained some of the challenges of translating poetry, especially if in Jamaican Patois such as Pamela Mordecai’s works, highly experimental like M. NourbeSe Philip’s texts, or as complex as Nora Iuga’s The Hunchbacks’ Bus (Bitter Oleander, 2016) and Emilian Galaicu-Păun’s poems, recently awarded second prize in the Dryden international translation competition in the UK. Bud talked about the Translation Research Project of the Central European Association for Canadian Studies, for which she acted as the leader of the Romanian research team. The project focused on translations of Canadian works and works about Canada in eight languages in the region. It resulted in a freely-accessible database with over 2,500 entries, including Henighan’s works, as she pointed out. Indeed, he talked about his experience as an English teacher in the Republic in Moldova, described in Lost Province: Adventures in a Moldovan Family (Beach Holme, 2002), and of how he negotiated cultural differences in his English translation of Mihail Sebastian’s novel The Accident (Biblioasis, 2011). He also announced that he has finished a second novel by Sebastian, The Town of Acacias („Oraşul cu salcâmi A”), forthcoming in 2020.

This brings me to one more significant premiere at the second edition of ToRo Fest, expanding the guest list beyond the Romanian-Canadian community and thus adding a new dimension to its multicultural objectives. Yukon filmmaker Max Fraser, Ottawa-based Dr. Maureen Korp, Toronto writer David Demchuk, and Vianu Mureșan, a writer and philosopher from Cluj-Napoca, presented their works related to specific aspects of Romanian culture. When she first envisioned a bookfair in Toronto, Pacso dreamed of something different than the usual community celebrations. For the 2018 edition, she enlisted Bud’s support and together they contacted more and more people, listened with an open mind to what they proposed and allowed for the event to grow organically into an artistic, literary, and academic dialogue across genres, languages, and cultures, fitted to Toronto, one of the most diverse cities in the world.
Let’s see where the 2019 edition will lead ToRo Fest!

Diana Manole is a Romanian-Canadian scholar, dramaturg, writer, and translator, as well as
a Pushcart prize-nominated English-language poet. Most recently, Manole was awarded 2nd prize in the 2017-18 John Dryden Translation Competition by the British Comparative Literature Association and the British Centre for Literary Translation, for co-translating also with Adam J. Sorkin selections from “a-z.best” by Emilian Galaicu-Păun, a major poet from the Republic of Moldova.

Diana Manole    10/10/2018


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