Actually, we don’t know the reason for their gathering initially. But the mimeographed invitation heralds that it is a matter of some importance.
Immediately, however, we are caught up in the back-and-forth of conversation.
And we are also immediately grateful that only seven people responded to M. Alexandre Caisse’s invitation.
Because if we had to keep fifteen voices distinct in our minds, phew!
Or, perhaps not. Each voice seems remarkably clear.
And Mavis Gallant’s ear for dialogue is astonishingly clear, even with the decades that have passed since “The Assembly” was collected/written.
There are so many concerns which arise and recede in this handful of pages, succinct and sharp reminders of societal pressures and ailments (whether considering a violent incident, a simmering layer of xenophobia, a difference of opinions): in some ways, this is a strange note for the collection to end on, in other ways, it’s a perfectly controlled chaos, a fine- tuned chorus.