Writer Mavis Gallant, 91, has died

Writer Mavis Gallant has died at age 91, her Canadian publisher announced Tuesday. She was primarily known for writing short fiction -- almost all of her 100-plus stories appeared in the New Yorker -- but she also penned two novels and a collection of nonfiction.

“I felt that the only thing I was on earth to do was to write,” she said in 2009.

Gallant was best known for her writing from Paris, but she was born and raised in Canada.

Mavis Leslie Young was born in Montreal in 1922. An unhappy child of divorce, she went to several boarding schools; after completing her schooling, she became a journalist. She later said she only found work as a writer because all the young men were off fighting World War II.

In 1942, she married musician John Gallant; they split five years later. In 1950, she left for Europe. “I thought that France must be enchanted magic. I wanted to be among those people,” she said in a rare 2009 interview.


Gallant was fairly private during her life and could be prickly. In that interview, she spoke of spending a year as writer in residence at the University of Toronto: “a completely useless job. You are with people who have no talent whatever, and if they had they wouldn’t come to me.”

But she could also be warm and funny. In 2009, she joined Jhumpa Lahiri for a joint reading and Q&A in Paris that was recorded by Granta magazine. “Nobody wants to ask the first question, so let’s skip the first question!” Gallant said, to appreciative laughter.

Gallant’s awards include the Canadian Governors General Award for literature, a Lannan Prize, a PEN/Nabakov Award, and being named a foreign honorary member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters.

Her first collection was “The Other Paris” in 1956. In 2002, the collection “Paris Stories” was released by NY Review of Books Classics, which published “The Cost of Living: Early and Uncollected Stories” in 2009. In between, she published more than a dozen books.


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