by Mavis Gallant, selected and with an introduction by Michael Ondaatje
An NYRB Classics Original
Mavis Gallant is a contemporary legend, a frequent contributor to The New Yorker for close to fifty years who has, in the words of The New York Times, “radically reshaped the short story for decade after decade.” Michael Ondaatje’s new selection of Gallant’s work gathers some of the most memorable of her stories set in Europe and Paris, where Gallant has long lived. Mysterious, funny, insightful, and heartbreaking, these are tales of expatriates and exiles, wise children and straying saints. Together they compose a secret history, at once intimate and panoramic, of modern times.
Often, her fiction drew its energy from contradictory qualities: her stories were minutely observed but also suspenseful, matter-of-fact but also fanciful, reportorial but also imaginative. They were broad-minded, and so felt real...it feels as concrete as anything you might read in the newspaper or see with your own eyes. Gallant had a rare gift: a solid imagination.
—The New Yorker
When beginning one of [Gallant's] stories I feel that I must already be running along a platform, willing to leap onto a moving train....What I adore about her, and wish to bring to my own pages, is the sheer vigor and velocity of her writing, the bombardment of detail that is always relevant, the characters who are not simply three-dimensional but 30-dimensional, addled and contradictory and hateful and endearing all at once.
— Jhumpa Lahiri
Ms. Hellier [owner of the English language Village Voice bookstore on Paris's Left Bank] said if she were to recommend one work of fiction set in Paris, it would be Paris Stories by Mavis Gallant, a collection of short stories by the Canadian-born writer who long wrote for The New Yorker.
— The New York Times
Read any one of Mavis Gallant's stories and you are at once swept away—captivated, amazed, moved—by the grace of her sentences, the ease of her wit, the suppleness of her narrative, the complexity and originality of her perfectly convincing characters. She is a fearless writer.
— Deborah Eisenberg, Alice Munro, and Joy Williams, Judges of the 2002 Rea Award for the Short Story
Mavis Gallant's short stories are secrets that writers and readers pass along to each other....[a] meticulous eye for detail.
— Peter Terzian, New York Newsday
New York Review Books is to be thanked for this handy selection, with Michael Ondaatje's eloquent introduction to boot....Gallant inspires because she has stayed unflaggingly true to her vision and her explorations of form, regardless of fashion. Like her compatriot Munro, she has remained a master of the short story rather than pursuing the more popular novel form, even though this devotion may have cost her a wider readership. Again like Munro, she frequently writes stories that expand like accordions, containing within them entire lives, a novel's worth of life.
— Claire Messud, Bookforum