Mavis Gallant is the modern master of what Henry James called the international story, the fine-grained evocation of the quandaries of people who must make their way in the world without any place to call their own. The irreducible complexity of the very idea of home is especially at issue in the stories Gallant has written about Montreal, where she was born, although she has lived in Paris for more than half a century.
Varieties of Exile, Russell Banks’s extensive new selection from Gallant’s work, demonstrates anew the remarkable reach of this writer’s singular art. Among its contents are three previously uncollected stories, as well as the celebrated semi-autobiographical sequence about Linnet Muir—stories that are wise, funny, and full of insight into the perils and promise of growing up and breaking loose.
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
Gallant’s subject is the comic opera of character….Before we know it she will have circled a person, captured a voice, revealed a whole manner of a life in the way a character avoids an issue or discusses a dress.
— Michael Ondaatje
Line by line, word by word, no one writes with more compression than Gallant. Great short stories are sometimes said to be as rich and as full as novels, but hers are as rich and full as encyclopedias.
— Francine Prose, Harper’s