Biography (Magill's Survey of American Literature, Revised Edition)
Mavis Gallant was born Mavis Young in Montreal, Quebec, Canada, on August 11, 1922. Her father, who died when she was ten years old, was Anglo-Scottish; her mother, who soon remarried, was American. At age four, Gallant was sent to a French convent school and subsequently attended a number of boarding schools, completing her education at a New York high school, where she had been sent to live with a guardian.
After returning to Canada, she married John Gallant in 1943 and got a job as a feature reporter with the Montreal Standard, where she worked for six years. She began writing and publishing short stories in Canadian journals during this period, which she has called her apprenticeship. Although she has said she liked the life of a reporter, her goal was to move to Paris before she was thirty and write nothing but fiction. In 1948, she and her husband were divorced; she moved to Europe in 1950.
Gallant began her lifelong association with The New Yorker in 1950, rather insecurely. As she tells the story, she procured the services of an agent in the United States, because she knew she was going to be traveling around in Europe. She sent the agent several stories, all of which he said he was unable to place. It was only when she was destitute in Madrid in 1952 that she happened to see a copy of The New Yorker with one of her stories in it. She contacted the magazine and found out that her agent did sell the stories to The New Yorker and other magazines, giving a fictitious address for her in Europe and keeping the...
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Biography (Critical Survey of Short Fiction, Second Revised Edition)
Born in Montreal in 1922, Mavis Gallant (née Mavis de Trafford Young), an only child, was placed in a Catholic convent school at the age of four. She attended seventeen schools: Catholic schools in Montreal, Protestant ones in Ontario, as well as various boarding schools in the United States. After the death of her father, Gallant lived with her legal guardians in New York, a psychiatrist and his wife. At the age of eighteen, Gallant returned to Montreal. After a short time working for the National Film Board of Canada in Ottawa during the winter of 1943-1944, Gallant accepted a position as reporter with the Montreal Standard, which she left in 1950. In 1951, Gallant began contributing short-fiction stories to The New Yorker. In the early 1950’s, she moved to Europe, living in London, Rome, and Madrid, before settling in Paris in the early 1960’s. It was through her travels and experiences in France, Italy, Austria, and Spain that she observed the fabric of diverse societies. During the initial years of her life in Europe, Gallant lived precariously from her writings, ultimately becoming an accomplished author, depicting loners, expatriates, and crumbling social structures. Gallant settled in Paris, working on a history of the renowned Dreyfus affair in addition to her work in fiction. Gallant settled in Paris, occasionally traveling to Canada, the United States, and England.
Biography (Critical Survey of Long Fiction, Fourth Edition)
Mavis Gallant was born Mavis de Trafford Young in Montreal, Quebec, in 1922, to Canadian Scottish Protestant parents. Her early life in a city of diverse languages, religions, and cultures gave her a sense of pluralism that permeates all her fiction. Sent away to a French boarding school at the age of four, she attended a succession of seventeen different schools in both the United States and Canada. The constant change in school venues gave her a keen sensitivity to the sense of displacement and exile that is explored in so much of her fiction.
Gallant chose not to attend college but instead returned to Montreal, intent on a writing career. She took a job with the National Film Board of Canada in 1943, editing documentary films, but soon resumed her search for a writing job. She was hired by the Montreal Standard newspaper in 1944 as a feature writer and worked there until 1950. Her story “With a Capital T,” collected in Home Truths, is a good account of what it was like to be an intelligent, imaginative young woman grudgingly allowed by old newspapermen to fill in while the younger men were away at war. During her time at the Standard her five-year marriage to John Gallant, a musician from Winnipeg, ended in divorce in 1948.
Gallant had set herself the goal of being independent by the age of thirty, and, in 1950, despite a chorus of dire warnings from her peers, she resigned her position with the...
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Biography (Magill's Survey of World Literature, Revised Edition)
Mavis Gallant (guh-LAHNT) was born Mavis de Trafford Young in Montreal, Canada, on August 11, 1922, the daughter of parents who enrolled her, beginning at the age of four, in a series of schools, some seventeen in number, in Montreal, Ottawa, and the eastern United States. Although a Protestant, she also attended some Catholic schools, which later provided her with material for her stories. Her childhood years were marked by loneliness. Her mother virtually abandoned her to foster parents in Ottawa before Gallant, while in her teens, went to live with a New York psychiatrist and his wife, who became her legal guardians. Her father died when she was a young girl.
After she returned to Montreal in 1940, she worked for a short time with the National Film Board before becoming a reporter for the Montreal Standard in 1944. During the next six years she wrote many features, photo-stories, and reviews, some of which she later reworked into her fiction. In her features she reveals a knowledge of Freudian psychology, a wide acquaintance with English Canadian and French Canadian literature and culture, an interest in a variety of displaced people caught in an alien culture, and a fascination with the dynamics of family struggles.
For a variety of reasons Gallant left her job with the newspaper in 1950. Her brief marriage to Johnny Gallant had ended, leaving her determined to live independently. This was difficult in Montreal; she had always been drawn to Europe, where she wanted to write for a...
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Biography (Cyclopedia of World Authors, Fourth Revised Edition)
Mavis Gallant (guh-LAHNT) is regarded as one of the finest short-story writers of the second half of the twentieth century, as well as being an essayist and social commentator. Although she was born in Canada as Mavis de Trafford Young, she has spent much of her life in France and only occasionally returns to Canada. She grew up in a middle-class, English-speaking, Protestant family in Montreal. After her parents’ marriage broke up, she had an unsettled childhood, attending seventeen different schools in Canada and the United States. An early story, “Thank You for the Lovely Tea” (1956), relates the experience of a girl who is a resident in an expensive girls’ school and resists the kindness of her father’s mistress on the occasion of an afternoon excursion. The girl’s deliberate surliness and the woman’s ineptness and insecurity are played out in the genteel atmosphere of a fashionable hotel dining room; the inevitable failure of the meeting is expressed with a laconic sourness and with the cold-eyed, witty awareness that is a characteristic mark of Gallant’s short-story technique. Gallant’s early experience of being on the move may be related to the interest she has in characters who are uprooted and aimless and often live in foreign lands.
Gallant began her career as a reporter with a Montreal newspaper, where she became a commentator on a wide range of social topics. At the same time she began to write short stories; in 1951 she had her first story printed in The New Yorker. One year earlier she had left Canada and settled in Paris, where she wrote fiction and commentary on French social, political, and cultural life; occasionally she also wrote articles on American and Canadian social topics. Gallant retained her Canadian citizenship, suggesting that it gave her the kind of emotional and intellectual distancing that allowed her to write comfortably. That need for keeping things at arm’s length is clearly mirrored in the emotional disinterest with which she handles her characters. Some critics have pointed out that...
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