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How Mavis Gallant wrote

The great Canadian writer Mavis Gallant passed away in 2014 at the age of 91. Though she was famously reluctant to analyze her own writing, she opened up in an interview for the 2006 documentary Paris Stories: The Writing of Mavis Gallant about how the muse struck her. And it's extraordinary:

Mavis Gallant.jpg

The first flash of fiction arrives without words. It consists of a fixed image, like a slide—or closer still, a freeze frame—showing characters in a simple situation. Every character comes into being with a name (which I may change), an age, a nationality, a profession, a particular voice and accent, a family background, a personal history, a destination, qualities, secrets, an attitude toward love, ambition, money, religion, and with a private centre of gravity.

After the first idea of the story, and your first vision of people in it… the next thing that comes, perhaps a couple of days later, is a flow of dialogue. They speak. And I don’t hear the exact words—I don’t know how to explain this… but I know what they’re talking about and I know what they’re saying. I know what they’re saying, even if it’s in another language." 

—From Paris Stories: The Writing of Mavis Gallant

Photo: Gallant CPArchivePhoto public

Grocery shopping with Gallant
We also found this absolutely fascinating 1965 profile of Mavis Gallant and her life in Paris from the CBC series Telescope—where Gallant opens up about everything from first being published in The New Yorker to... her relationship with the local butcher, baker, greengrocer and florist.

Also: A look at Mavis Gallant's remarkable career »


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