Mavis Gallant’s chief accomplishment as an author has been to illuminate the physical and psychological effects of the aftermath of World War II and of geographic and cultural dislocation in general. Her recognition of the essential homelessness of the human spirit in the modern world gives her work an appeal on both sides of the Atlantic. She transmutes the banalities of the life of the stranger abroad into metaphors of wandering in a confusing landscape, which is both another country and one’s own heart.
After Gallant won the Canadian Fiction Prize in 1978 and the Governor-General’s Award in 1981, literary awards continued to come her way. Her publications have garnered the Canada-Australia Literary Prize (1984), the Canada Council Molson Prize for the Arts (1996), the Matt Cohen Award (2001), and the Rea Award for the Short Story (2002). Although Gallant is bilingual, she writes only in English, so it was quite a distinction for her to receive Quebec’s Prix-Athanase-David in 2006, which up until that point was given only for literature written in French.
Gallant was made an Officer of the Order of Canada in 1981 and was promoted to the order’s highest level of Companion in 1993. In 1989 she became an Honorary Member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters as well as a fellow of the Royal Society of Literature (United Kingdom). In 2004, she was the recipient of a Lannan Literary Fellowship. Since the 1980’s, Gallant has been awarded honorary degrees from several universities, including the University of Toronto, the University of Montreal, York University, and Queen’s University. Her papers are donated on an ongoing basis to the University of Toronto, where she was a writer-in-residence in 1983-1984. She is considered by critics in Europe and in North America to be one of the greatest Canadian writers of short fiction, along with Alice Munro and Morley Callaghan.