This month the political prisoner Ales Bialiatski received a message from the Canadian Province of Quebec. Normand de Bellefeuille, the famous representative of contemporary French Canadian literature sent Bialiatski his collection of poetry titled “Mon Bruit” (My Noise) inscribed by him.
In his inscription, de Bellefeuille appeals to Bialiatski as a literary colleague:
“To Ales, an unknown friend, far off yet near to me.
It happens that people who have supposedly mastered words suddenly find themselves at a loss for them. They slip away or struggle to break free…. Then only one thing is left—to testify to your feelings and unending solidarity. These days few writers remember that they must also—and perhaps primarily—be citizens in the full sense of the word, which means being engaged, discerning, present, and noticed in the public arena. YOU understood this… and now YOU are paying for this. My thoughts, solidarity, and brotherly love for you will always be with you during your trials.
Normand de Bellefeuille
An unknown but very close friend”
Normand de Bellefeuille became acquainted with Bialiatski in absentia when he participated in the campaign Livres comme l’air, which took place at the Salon du Livre du Montreal. This campaign in solidarity with imprisoned writers was organized by the Canadian branch of Amnesty International, PEN Québec, and the Union of Québécois Writers (UNEQ). During the event, which took place on November 15—the International Day of the Imprisoned Writer, French Canadian literary figures publicly read dedications to their imprisoned colleagues in different countries. Anne Sainte-Marie, an employee of Amnesty International from Montreal, described this event to Bialiatski in a cover letter.
She also told him that 600 signatures were collected during the event for a petition demanding that Belarus observe human rights. The petition was given to the Belarusian ambassador to Canada.
For his part, Bialiatski thanked the team at Amnesty International. He wrote that he received all the letters and cards of solidarity sent in connection with this event, and that they add beauty to his gray days within the prison walls.