Monday, July 23, 2007

Je sais que nous devons avoir ses livres: Mavis Gallant in Paris

In Paris with Mavis Gallant, Writer
from The Walrus
July 2007
Randy Boyagoda

“M’excuser, monsieur. Je cherche des livres par Mavis Gallant. Où peux-je les trouver?” I asked the bookseller my question and then braced for his answer. This was an upmarket bookstore in Montparnasse, after all, and I was fumbling at the counter with Ontario schoolboy French. If my prior encounters in Paris were a reliable guide, my effort would be met with a practised combination of annoyance, pity, amusement, and withering contempt. But this time proved different. The bookseller ignored how rudely I had chewed through his native tongue.

“Pardon. Je sais que nous devons avoir ses livres, mais nous ne les avons pas,” he said in a sheepish, apologetic way, as if he were acknowledging a failure of literary responsibility. He knew he ought to have Mavis Gallant’s books on offer, but he didn’t. I would expect an exchange like this in a Canadian bookstore, but it was surprising here, in Paris, in Gallant’s own neighbourhood, in a city she’s been living in for some five decades. I was about to meet her at a restaurant across the street and had ducked into the book­store, curious to see where, not if, Gallant was placed on the shelves. She had chosen the restaurant and agreed to a conversation on a Sunday afternoon this past October through a correspondence that had stretched over a year. Though eighty-four, frail by her own admission, and exhausted from participating in two recently filmed documentaries about her life and work, she eventually agreed to my request [...]

To read the entire article, follow this link.


The unabridged audio edition of Mavis Gallant's short story collection, Montreal Stories (published as Varieties of Exile in the United States), is narrated by Margot Dionne and published by Rattling Books.