Mavis Gallant Dead at 91

Noted short story artist and author, Canadian-born Mavis Gallant died yesterday. The 91-year-old author had made Paris her home for many years.

Gallant was the author of two novels (Green Water, Green Sky in 1959 and A Fairly Good Time in 1970) and almost 10 short story collections. She won the Governor General’s Award for 1981’s Home Truths: Selected Canadian Stories. From The Globe and Mail:

Ms. Gallant had a journalist’s nose, a cinematographer’s eye and a novelist’s imagination. She combined her technical skills and sensory perceptions in the shrewdly observed and multilayered short story, a form she made her own. She was a specialist in writing about outsiders trying to insinuate themselves into alien situations and cultures, and her narratives move in waves of dialogue, observation and lashing tension. Reading her stories gives one a sense of a clock ticking, a door creaking open, or of an emotional wound about to be inflicted. 

A Canadian by birth, she first enjoyed literary success in the United States, where she published more than 100 stories in The New Yorker beginning in 1951.

“Stories are not chapters of novels,” Gallant said at one point, “They should not be read one after another, as if they were meant to follow along. Read one. Shut the book. Read something else. Come back later. Stories can wait.”

Though she had lived in Europe since the 1950s, over the years she had been awarded Canada’s highest honors, including the Order of Canada in 1981 and Companion of the Order in 1993. In 2004, she was awarded both a Lannan Literary Fellowship and a PEN/Nabokov Award. In 2006 she became the first anglophone to be given the Prix Athanase-David from the government of Quebec in the 38 years history of the award.

According to The Globe, Gallant’s “last decade was plagued by ill health and poverty. She suffered from arthritis, osteoporosis and diabetes, but a circle of close friends rallied to support her valiant spirit, her coruscating wit and her generous capacity for friendship.”

The paper’s farewell to Gallant is lovely, and it’s here.

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