Saturday, February 15, 2020

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The interview

Jhumpa Lahiri interviews Mavis Gallant.

At eighty-six, Mavis remains an elegant woman. Each day she was impeccably dressed in a woollen skirt, sweater, scarf, stockings and square-heeled pumps. A medium-length coat of black wool protected her from the Paris chill and beautiful rings, an opal one among them, adorned her fingers. Her accent, soft but proper in the English manner, evoked, to my ear, the graceful and sophisticated speech of 1940s cinema. Her laughter, less formal, erupts frequently as a hearty expulsion of breath. French, the language that has surrounded her for over half a lifetime, occasionally adorns and accompanies her English. She is a spirited and agile interlocuter who tells stories as she writes them: bristling with drama, thick with dialogue, vividly rendered and studded with astringent aperçus.

I wish I could have met Mavis Gallant in this lifetime, but she lives in her stories, which I read and re-read once in a while. Each time, these tales enrich my existence.

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