The Encyclopedia of Twentieth-Century Fiction - Vol. 3

By John Clement Ball | Go to book overview

G

Gallant, Mavis
MARTA DVORAK

Recognized internationally as one of the best short story writers in English, Canadian expatriate Mavis Gallant is the author of over 100 stories as well as novels, plays, and essays. She has won prestigious literary awards (the Governor General’s Literary Award, the Blue Metropolis International Literary Grand Prix, the PEN/Nabokov Award, and the Prix Athanase-David) and is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature and an honorary member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters. She has a long history of publishing with the New Yorker, a special relationship that allowed her to write full-time well before her work received widespread critical attention. Gallant’s work shows how art can draw on displaced, double, or plural identities to find new angles on reality and generate radical reformulations of language, form, and ideas. Reading her fiction within overlapping aesthetic movements shows that her diverse roots and intercultural practices enable her to usher into Canada the discordance and de-centering of the modernist and postmodern movements.

Gallant was born on August 11, 1922 in an anglophone enclave of Montreal, a divided city surrounded by the concentric circles of a Frenchspeaking province (Quebec) and an Englishspeaking continent. At age 4 her Protestant parents sent her to a convent boarding school run by French Canadian Catholic nuns. Her environment was split on multiple levels – linguistic, cultural, religious, and axiological – and this collision of worldviews triggered her writing by helping fashion her interest in language and its relations with perception, imagination, and memory.

After attending high school in New York, Gallant returned to Canada, eventually joining the staff of the Montreal Standard as a feature writer from 1944 to 1950. Her early articles prefigured the essays and reviews collected in Paris Notebooks (1986), which combine keen observation and razor-sharp wit with extensive knowledge of European and North American history, institutions, legislation, art, and customs. She produced a weekly column about radio plays and published interviews with international thinkers and artists such as Jean-Paul Sartre and Paul Hindemith, along with English Canadian and French Canadian writers from Hugh MacLennan and W. O. Mitchell to Gabrielle Roy. The three stories she published in the 1940s focused on the experiences of refugees, and this concern with cultural and spatial displacement would become a hallmark of her writing.

Although she expatriated herself in 1950 and has resided in Paris ever since, it is the Montreal of her childhood and youth that Gallant retrieves and reconfigures in the “Linnet Muir” stories collected in Home Truths (1981). These six stories together form a story cycle, a genre revived by Gallant and subsequently by fellow Canadians Alice Munro and Margaret Laurence; they depict the development of the character and consciousness of Linnet Muir, but also explore the city and the nation. Operating within the Künstlerroman tradition, the reconstruction of a lost city and way of life is told in the first person. The stories are split temporally but are linked by certain

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The Encyclopedia of Twentieth-Century Fiction - Vol. 3
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Editors i
  • The Wiley-Blackwell Encyclopedia of Literature WWW.Literatureencyclopedia.Com ii
  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • List of Entries vii
  • Acknowledgments xiii
  • Notes on Contributors to Volume III xv
  • Introduction to Volume III 937
  • A 942
  • B 980
  • C 995
  • D 1034
  • E 1052
  • F 1066
  • G 1094
  • H 1121
  • I 1145
  • J 1154
  • K 1167
  • L 1180
  • M 1198
  • N 1252
  • O 1270
  • P 1277
  • Q 1296
  • R 1300
  • S 1325
  • T 1365
  • U 1370
  • V 1373
  • W 1378
  • Z 1398
  • Index 1400
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