Mavis Gallant’s “Mousse” (1980)

Mavis Gallant knew “fake news” when she saw it.

“The picture is an obvious and mischievous fake, and it was with great reluctance that four reputable newspapers decided to run it.”

In fewer than a thousand words, “Mousse” considers the status of a once-significant political leader whose position has changed.

Not in any way because of the photo, but it was certainly an interesting photo, wasn’t it.

“All Paris is awash with election rumors concerning Sylvain Mousse.”

There is talk of wealth, flaunted and excessive. Abundance and luxury: over the top.

Immediately followed by this seemingly contradictory statement:

“Mousse hopes to win the hearts of the workers. Can he do it?”

Something for the workers to dream of perhaps? The day they, too, could be like Mousse?

It is all-too-easy to believe that large numbers of economically disadvantaged working-class people want to believe that a wealthy man is concerned for their welfare and eager to share his spoils for their benefit.

“Is Mousse still divisive?”

Once he was, indeed. Now, when the story is being written, after Mousse’s position has changed, the matter is up for debate.

Now, wouldn’t that make for an interesting picture.

Mavis Gallant’s super short stories don’t actually make me laugh out loud, but they frequently provoke a string of snorty chuckles.

“Mousse” felt particularly timely, and the stark shift in tone from last week’s extended meditation on a fragmented family was a welcome relief.

But the observations here, too, are sharp and painfully true.

Note: This is part of a series of posts on Mavis Gallant’s stories, as I read through her short fiction. This is the twenty-sixth story in Going Ashore. Please feel free to check the schedule and join in, for the series, or for a single story; I would love the company. Next week’s story: “Travellers Must Be Content”.



  1. […] short as “Mousse” and as sharply assembled, “On with the New in France (1981)” presents an itemized list of […]

  2. Naomi February 16, 2018 at 2:32 pm - Reply

    “…a string of snorty chuckles” made me chuckle. That’s exactly what I sound like when a book makes me laugh. And I’m a snorter, too. I can’t help it… the snorts just escape. So I was imagining what it would sound like if we were reading something funny side-by-side. snorty chuckle

    • Buried In Print February 20, 2018 at 4:10 pm - Reply

      actual laugh Well, we would certainly be disruptive for anyone ELSE trying to read near us, that’s for sure! These super short Gallant pieces are filled with snorty-laugh potential. I think you would approve!

  3. Laila@BigReadingLife February 13, 2018 at 12:25 pm - Reply

    I’d say this was a nice change of pace from the previous story. I checked out catalog at my library and it seems we don’t have this collection of her stories. The collected stories, which we do have, doesn’t seem to contain this one, from what I can tell from the record. I’d love to be able to read along sometime, though!

    • Buried In Print February 15, 2018 at 8:04 am - Reply

      Moving towards the end of the year, I’ll be getting into some of her better-known collections and some of those will be included in the collection you’ve found. It will be lovely for the characters to have more people to discuss them!

    • Naomi February 16, 2018 at 2:33 pm - Reply

      That’s probably the same collection I have. I am impatiently waiting… 🙂

  4. annelogan17 February 13, 2018 at 12:08 pm - Reply

    It is SHOCKING how timely this story sounds. How sad that history so easily repeats itself? Even if the history is fiction?

    • Buried In Print February 15, 2018 at 7:58 am - Reply

      Hah. Exactly! She was a careful observer and considered thinker. The more I read, the more I admire.

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