Mavis Gallant

“I believed that if I was to call myself a writer, I should live on writing. If I could not live on it, even simply, I should destroy every scrap, every trace, every notebook and live some other way.”

After the last (and maybe final) set of short stories came out recently from Canadian National Treasure Alice Munro, I kept thinking about Mavis Gallant, the Montrealer who moved to France in the 1950s and never returned. She wrote strange, painful, wonderful short stories mostly set in a Canada she had left decades before.

For someone who was so well-published (primarily in The New Yorker), she still feels like insider knowledge, a code word for something. Recently I was at party of writers in San Francisco, and a novelist gestured to the crowd at the wine and chip table. "How many of these people have heard of Mavis Gallant, do you think? Me, you, maybe one more?"

Here's "A Canadian in Paris," a 1965 television profile of her from CBC (in which she speaks in the strange Jackie O haute whisper) and a 1996 interview from Paris Review

On returning to Canada after moving, permanently, to Europe: "I was upset at not finding things I had known as a child. You're always attached to the city you were born in, even if you think you are not. It's just as you never know how you're going to feel when a relation dies until it happens. And you have the same feeling about your native city."