Ottawa's Festival of Ideas Since 1997
library and Archives Canada395 Wellington Street

Present Tense

with Dimitri Nasrallah, Blaise Ndala and Mahir Guven
Hosted by Carleton’s Adrian Harewood

Present Tense

with Dimitri Nasrallah, Blaise Ndala and Mahir Guven
Hosted by Carleton’s Adrian Harewood
library and Archives Canada
395 Wellington Street
Blaise Ndala - Photo by Pascal Castonguay
Dimitri Nasrallah - Photo by bruno destombes
Mahir Guven - Photo by Patrice Normand

Join Carleton’s Adrian Harewood for a conversation with three authors whose novels explore diasporic life for characters fleeing conflict and histories that inevitably impact the present tense.


A Canada Reads finalist, Hotline by Dimitri Nasrallah, is a vivid elegy to the 1980s, the years he first moved to Canada from Lebanon. It's 1986, and Muna Heddad is in a bind. She and her son have moved to Montreal, leaving behind a civil war filled with bad memories. The only work she can find is at a weight-loss center as a hotline operator. On the phone, she's Mona, and she's quite good at listening. Even as her daily life in Canada is filled with invisible barriers at every turn, at the office Muna is privy to her clients’ deepest secrets.


In Blaise Ndala’s magnificent second novel, The War You Don't Hate , winner of Radio-Canada Combats des livres and translated into English by Dimitri Nasrallah, the paths of a Canadian documentary filmmaker and two former rebel soldiers from the Congo collide in this searing revenge tale about those who profit from the misery of others. Véronique accepts the Best Documentary Oscar for “Sona: Rape and Terror in the Heart of Darkness”, basking in the praise of her privileged audience. But in the Great Lakes region of Africa, Master Corporal Red Ant and his cousin Baby Che are stalking the remnants of the Second Congo War - the deadliest conflict since World War II. In search of truth and vengeance, their obsession now has a name.


Winner of the Goncourt First Novel Prize, Older Brother  by Mahir Guven (translated by Tina Kover) is the story of a Franco-Syrian family whose father and two sons try to integrate themselves into a society that doesn’t offer them many opportunities. The father, an atheist communist who moved from Syria to France for his studies and stayed for love, has worked for decades driving a taxi. The eldest son is a driver for an app-based car service. The younger son works as a nurse in a French hospital and decides to join a Muslim humanitarian organization to help wounded civilians in the war in Syria. But when he stops sending news home, the silence begins to eat away at his father and brother who wonder what his real motivations were.


Special thanks to the Embassy of France for their support of Mahir Guven’s appearance.


Books are available from our friends at Perfect Books.


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Included in Optional Sunday May 05 Sunday Afternoon pass

1:30pm • Library and Archives Canada • 396 Wellington Street
3:00pm • Library and Archives Canada • 395 Wellington street
5:00pm • library and Archives Canada • 395 Wellington Street
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