This Week in JPL History: Naim Kattan Closes Jewish Book Month 1979

Naim Kattan speaking as a part of Le cercle juif

“And them that had escaped from the sword carried he away to Babylon; and they were servants to him and his sons.” II Chronicles 36:20

It is these lines which preface the beginning of Naïm Kattan’s Adieu, Babylone, a fictionalized memoir of a youth in Babylon. Kattan is a writer who is very familiar to JPL audiences- as the Library has been fortunate enough to play host to him numerous times over the years.

It was during this week in 1979 that Kattan closed Jewish Book Month with a lecture on “Les écrivans juifs de la langue Francais.” You can listen to this lecture, as well as others Kattan gave, through the work of the Yiddish Book Center. The 1979 Jewish Book Month was a banner year for the Library as we were lucky enough to play host to two titans of the Quebec literary scene, Naim Kattan and Mordecai Richler.

Kattan was born in Baghdad and studied at the Sorbonne from 1947 to 1951. He immigrated to Montreal in the mid-50s. In 1984, he became head of the writing and publishing division of the Canada Council for the Arts, with whom the JPL has partnered with on numerous occasions to deliver lectures and readings by prominent Canadian authors. The JPL-A holds correspondences between Kattan and the JPL during his time with the Canada Council for the Arts.

In 2002 Kattan launched his book “L’ecrivain du passage” at the Jewish Public Library. Most recently Kattan participated in a panel discussion following the presentation of Joe Balass’ movie “La longueur de l’alphabet” of which Kattan is the subject. The film is the third in a series on Iraq by filmmaker Joe Balass and the Library holds a copy of the film in our catalogue.

The This Week in Jewish Public Library History blog series was made possible through the generous support of the Peter and Ellen Jacobs Virtual Archives Fund.

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