In his introduction to Mavis Gallant’s Paris Stories (2002), Michael Ondaatje describes her Europe as a place of “shipwrecks” (a recurring word in this collection, he notes).
Her characters are “permanent wanderers”, often from Canada and Eastern Europe, and not always from or in Paris, but Mavis Gallant wrote their stories in Paris. “After a while,” Ondaatje writes, “this collection of souls begins to represent for the reader the true state of the world.”
When I picked up this collection, I was expecting to read only the three stories that I hadn’t already covered in my reading project.
But after reading the quotations Ondaatje pulled to illustrate his points, I found Peter and Sheilah at the breakfast table, drinking coffee, and I thought that I would just read that one.
Then, I saw that he’d chosen “Irina” as the next story and I was in the mood for a little bit of Christmas, Gallant-style.
Next comes “The Homecomer”, of which I remembered the ending immediately but wanted to see what I’d not remembered as clearly.
Then, “In Transit”, well, it’s so short, and one of my favourites. So, why not?
After that, it’s “The Moslem Wife”, which is a long one but a very good one, and I realized that I was going to reread them all.
So, I left my bookmark there, and I flipped forward to “August”.
Three from Paris Stories and three from Montreal Stories will bring my Mavis Gallant reading project to a close.
At the end of September, it’ll be time to choose my next short story project.
Next week (and, already!), it’s “August”.