Non-Fiction at a Glance

Minority Report

Minority Report
An Alternative History of English-Language Arts in Quebec

Ed. Guy Rodgers

Guernica Essay Series
$20.00
Paper
154pp
978-155071355-8

On September 22–23, 2011, a segment of Quebec’s English-language arts community – writers, publishers, dancers, musicians, actors, visual artists, etc. – gathered for the second State of the Arts Summit organized by ELAN (the English-Language Arts Network). Its purpose? To determine what the community can do over the next few years to survive, grow, and flourish.

After planning for a collective future, the Summit ended with the launch of the book Minority Report, a loving look at the history of English-language arts in Quebec. Edited by Dimitri Nasrallah, the book is the paper version of raev.ca’s history section. Created by ELAN in 2010, raev.ca (Recognizing Artists: Enfin Visbles!) is a website that provides a snapshot of the community: 154 ELAN members have profiles; there is an online map of English-language shows, venues, and artists in Quebec; and brief histories of the different disciplines represented by ELAN are available. It is these histories – published as is, without any additions, though without all the pictures – that became Minority Report.

The book is very enlightening: in the dance section, we learn that Les Grands Ballets Canadiens de Montréal was, in the 1950s, “one of only three Canadian companies to offer its dancers regular salaries;” and the music section reveals that Emile Berliner, developer of the gramophone, founded, in 1899, the first North-American record-pressing plant in Montreal. Interestingly, and perhaps the point of this exercise, it would appear that some of Quebec’s artistic disciplines had a brush with death at one point in their respective history (“Le théâtre Anglophone à Montréal: pratiquement mort” declared La Presse on December 7, 1985) before resurrecting and thriving once again.

Unfortunately, these essays are somewhat superficial, giving a very quick – yet important – summary only. And though they are extremely interesting, readers who aren’t familiar with a given discipline might be frustrated with the long lists of unknown names.

As the closing event for the Arts Summit, the launch of this book was a great way to hand over the torch to current artists. The histories chronicled in Minority Report end in 2010, but they create a platform from which current artists can keep developing English-language arts in Quebec. mRb

Mélanie Grondin is the editor of the Montreal Review of Books. Her book The Art and Passion of Guido Nincheri is coming out in the fall of 2017.

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