From the Fifteenth Arrondissement
February 18, 2014 8:07 AM   Subscribe

Mavis Gallant, one of finest writers in English of the 20th century, has died. Gallant was 91, and had been suffering from osteoporosis for many years.

She had been editing her diaries for publication (excerpt, from the New Yorker) in recent years. From the London Review of Books, a review of her Selected Stories. A brief overview of her career, also from the New Yorker. Her achievement was enormous, its recognition perhaps less so. RIP.
posted by jokeefe (16 comments total) 12 users marked this as a favorite
posted by Cash4Lead at 8:15 AM on February 18, 2014

Obituaries are being posted: here's a longer and more detailed one from the National Post: "[S]cores of her magnificent stories embodied the essential qualities of the globalized world we now inhabit. Her death at age 91 ended a career that was conducted entirely from Paris but reached out to the whole planet."
posted by jokeefe at 8:30 AM on February 18, 2014 [1 favorite]

posted by Mister Bijou at 8:40 AM on February 18, 2014

posted by Iridic at 8:45 AM on February 18, 2014

the best, pure, formal writer that canada has produced, and perhaps the world. for the complicated details of emotional resonance, shes brilliant.
posted by PinkMoose at 9:34 AM on February 18, 2014 [1 favorite]

posted by Rustic Etruscan at 10:47 AM on February 18, 2014

CBC's Ideas ran a documentary on Gallant in 2012: The Four Seasons of Mavis Gallant. You can listen to it at the link. It's fascinating.

She was one of the writers I was introduced to in first year university. I was surprised I had never heard of her, that she wasn't as well known as, for example, Munro or Atwood.

The CBC's Eleanor Wachtel, on interviewing Mavis Gallant:
I first interviewed Mavis Gallant 15 years ago. She was full of stories and observations such that when I came to put together my first book of interviews, Writers & Company, I wanted to include her (alongside Michael Ondaatje, Alice Munro and Margaret Atwood, among many others). She asked to see the edited transcript and proceeded to mark it up extensively - until about three-quarters of the way through, she stopped and wrote, "It's hopeless, I sound like Dan Quayle." For her, the spoken word was one thing; once it was written, it had to be perfect.

Mavis Gallant does have a daunting reputation. When TV journalist Stéphan Bureau came to interview her for his documentary film, he said: "I must confess at the outset that I was rather terrified of interviewing Mavis Gallant." And I do remember once, years ago, when I asked her about love - one of her characters had compared it to practising scales on the piano - she said, "Eleanor, are you asking me if I think that? I'm ashamed of you." This was in front a TV crew that flinched en masse and yet I knew even then that she would continue and elaborate on the question and the story (from Across the Bridge).
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 10:47 AM on February 18, 2014 [4 favorites]

I always go back to her story "The Ice-Wagon Going Down the Street." It has all the hallmarks of top-grade Gallant — elegant prose, richly drawn characters, unexpected humour (for a so-called 'serious' writer, there are a lot of laugh-out-loud moments in her work), brief but telling glimpses into everyday tragedies an inch wide but a mile deep — all set in a kind of miasmic disordered diasporic post-WW II Europe that is at once both appealing and appalling. And then, that turn, at the very very ending, when the meticulous tapestry that she has woven us into over the last 20-odd pages is erased, all of it, in the final two sentences, casually, brutally, heartbreakingly: "No, begin at the beginning: Peter lost Agnes. Agnes says to herself somewhere, Peter is lost."

She was one of the true greats. RIP.
posted by erlking at 11:11 AM on February 18, 2014 [2 favorites]

She is survived by her rival and bitter enemy, Goofus.
posted by msalt at 12:37 PM on February 18, 2014

posted by jlbartosa at 1:32 PM on February 18, 2014

posted by From Bklyn at 2:24 PM on February 18, 2014

posted by sueinnyc at 5:19 PM on February 18, 2014

From 2009: Jian Ghomeshi in conversation with Mavis Gallant (audio only). She truly could be wonderfully scary.
posted by thisclickableme at 5:31 PM on February 18, 2014


I read this and immediately picked up a copy of her Paris Stories:
I still do not know what impels anyone sound of mind to leave dry land and spend a lifetime describing people who do not exist.
—Mavis Gallant, "In Which We Iterate Upon Ourselves"
Thank you, thank you, thank you, Ms. Gallant. You will be missed.
posted by simulacra at 5:36 PM on February 18, 2014 [1 favorite]

For decades -- since I was a teenager -- I vaguely intended to send her a note of appreciation and thanks. I never got around to it and now it's too late.

Thanks, jokeefe.
posted by tangerine at 9:21 PM on February 18, 2014

I met her once and stumbled on my words but I did manage (to attempt) to tell her what reading From the 15th Arrondissement meant/means to me. I hope.

The New Yorker has a selection of her stories from their archives here. Unfortunately most of them are paywalled.
posted by jokeefe at 8:19 AM on February 19, 2014

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