Mavis Gallant often borrowed experiences from her own life and from her notebooks for her fiction. Her fiction also drew on the material she gathered as a young journalist for the Montreal Standard. As she explained in an interview with Eleanor Wachtel, “Lots of my dialogue came from feature stories.” (Biron 70). Sometimes these borrowings are direct, and sometimes just connected by theme, place, or detail.
To demonstrate the relationship between Gallant’s fiction and journalism, we looked for migration stories within her short stories which may have drawn from the real life immigrants she interviewed while working for the Montreal Standard. The story of Mrs. Ibrahim in From the Fourteenth District is a great example of this. We have edited the story so that the fictional supernatural elements are gone and so have put the focus on society’s opinions of immigrants. This story presents not only the prejudices displayed by characters such as the doctor and social investigator who supposedly assist Mrs. Ibrahim, but also puts a spotlight on the conditions in which immigrants lived and the bureaucracies and institutions in which they moved.
If you want to hear the author Karen Russell read the story entire, check out Deborah Tribesman’s New Yorker Fiction Podcast series here.
– Biron, Charlotte. Mavis Gallant et Gabrielle Roy, journalists. Québec, Codicille éditeur, 2016
– Gallant, Mavis. “From the Fourteenth District.” New Yorker 30 Oct. 1978: 36-38. Web. 5 Apr. 2017.