A friend recently told me that the word empathy can be etymologically traced back to a German construct connected to the experience of consuming art. That is, standing in front of a work of art, really engaging with it, is like the empathetic ability to share and understand the feelings of another human entity. I’m not sure whether this etymology is, in fact, true, but I do love considering it, especially in view of Issue 36 of carte blanche, thematically undergirded by Empathy.
Rather than single out authors and their work in this editorial note—I trust you, reader, to find the pieces that speak to you personally, scrolling through this marvellous new issue—I would like to linger on Empathy instead. On one level, there is an intrinsically empathetic relationship between genres and works selected to appear together in an issue like this; literary works that bridge the separate worlds in which each was independently crafted to make unintentional connections. On another level, and both more generally and more specifically, empathy plays an integral role in the literary world we all interact with to varying degrees. There’s the readerly experience of opening oneself up to unexpected writing, living alongside diverging characters, stepping into new worlds and experimental forms. Then there’s the significance of interpersonal empathy—as editors, arts administrators, publishers, writers, readers and more, a collective responsibility arises for everyone to listen to one another, to collaborate creatively and critically towards an energetic, ever-evolving, inclusive, and diverse contemporary literature. To live the fact that we are living together in a vibrant literary landscape that necessitates a constant attempt to understand one another’s art and to understand each other as people.
As the final editorial I’ll be writing in my capacity as editor-in-chief of carte blanche, I’m feeling a bit nostalgic already. Being involved with the past six issues has been a phenomenal experience; working with the strong team of editors to send work out into the world has been a responsibility, which I haven’t taken lightly. It has also been a learning curve with amazing highs each time an issue lands and the conversation between authors, genres, and literary pieces become apparent. I would like to thank editors, authors, and the Quebec Writers’ Federation deeply for collaborating with me. Handing over the reins to the very capable hands of Greg Santos, I greatly look forward to seeing carte blanche flourish, while continuing to cheer on and support enthusiastically from the sidelines.
—Klara du Plessis