Emira Tufo's Reading Recommendation:
The way in which the pandemic has suppressed the vibrancy and economic activity of our cities has got me thinking a great deal about how our urban landscapes will change – perhaps permanently – once we come out on the other side. Many of my favorite places in Montreal – small local businesses, charming mom and pop shops, idealistic new ventures and small show spaces – have gone under, leaving in their wake a string of À LOUER (FOR RENT) signs. I begin to fear that the world of the future will be populated by corporate survivors only: the Lululemons of the world, who’ve been thriving selling leisurewear.
Looking for works about the resilience of cities, I recently picked up E.B. White’s Here is New York for the third time. This magnificent 1949 essay about the world’s great metropolis stands as a testimony to all that is grand and peculiar about that city. New York has undergone tremendous changes since that time, and yet I felt, reading the essay today, just as I did when I read it ten and also twenty years ago: that it spoke some fundamental and unchanging truth about the nature of that town - its fever, its permanent allure to the young and restless and the aspiring, its excess of spirit and eternal promise of opportunity. The city is like poetry, White writes. It compresses all life, all races and breeds, into a small island and adds music and the accompaniment of internal engines. Despite the passage of time, Here is New York remains timely, speaking to the city’s timeless nature.
The essay gave me hope and pointed me to the essential nature of Montreal: its joie de vivre, its creativity, its quirkiness, its unconventionality, its peculiar rough beauty and its flow. Although the city has been one of the hardest hit by the pandemic in Canada, I have somehow felt safe being here at this time. Everything that the city is in spirit is still here for me, for us: most of all its kind and loving heart which is also featured in its logo. Here is hoping, then, that when this all ends, we will find our cities still true to themselves, ready to rise and to continue, maybe somewhat different but essentially the same.
Emira Tufo is a Bosnian Canadian writer based in Montreal. She is the recipient of the 2019 CBC/Quebec Writers’ Federation Writer in Residence award. Her essays have appeared in The Globe and Mail, the Montreal Gazette and on CBC. Her storytelling has been featured on the Confabulation and Volume Knob podcasts. Emira's nonfiction essay Heroes was published in issue 286 of TheFiddlehead.