In Transit (Mavis Gallant) pdf, epub, doc

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Seedy Madrid
Mavis Gallant's collection of short fiction makes its calm and careful approach to the world very slowly in the first few stories.Often enough it is a case of losing the way, of disorientation, of trying to map the situation at hand.
I was not by any means in first youth, and I could not say that the shape of my life was a mystery.But I felt I had done all I could with free will, and that circumstances, the imponderables, should now take a hand.I was giving them every opportunity.I was in a city where I knew not a soul, save the few I had come to know by chance.It was a city where the mentality, the sound of the language, the hopes and possibilities, even the appearance of the people in the streets, were as strange as anything I might have invented.My choice in coming here had been deliberate; I had a plan.My own character seemed to me ill-defined; I believed that this was unfortunate, and unique.I thought that if I set myself against a background into which I could not possibly merge that some outline would present itself. But it hadn't succeeded, because I adapted too quickly.In no time at all, I had the speech and the movements and very expression on my face of seedy Madrid.
As we go, the traveler is beset by the strange sense of standing still, with the idea of finding the way —of orientation— becoming increasingly irrelevant to the scenery at hand.

What begins as snippets of immediate experience in these stories broadens out to a wider appreciation of the situation overall.So what the reader gets is an elliptical rendering of things, often a kind of up-ended view of the Expatriate experience of new places.Deft, oblique and chopped up in the Cuisinart of that kind of mid-century modern authorial voice ... that lets the off-hand observation and the disingenuous remark speak for themselves.

Nice, Nearly
Alongside the mainstream flow of badly-intersecting hopes and wishes, Ms Gallant has a well tuned sense of surface tensions— atmospheric, scenic, flora— and how they adapt and conceal the situation.And also how they may mirror it.
The house was full of ants, and the windows, which were dirty, were smeared with rain.The most disobliging sight in nature was provided by the view—palm trees under a dark sluice of rain.Beyond a drenched hedge stood a house exactly like Aunt Val's, with spires, minarets, stained-glass windows; possibly it, too, contained a drawing room stuffed with ferns and sheeted sofas.The houses were part of a genteel settlement, built in an era of jaunty Islamic-English design, in a back pocket of the Riviera country.The district was out of fashion, crumbling, but the houses persisted; dragging their rock gardens, their humped tennis courts, they marched down the slope of a tamed minor Alp.In the old days, Aunt Val said, except for the trees and the climate and the conversation of servants, one needn't have ever known this was France.
Only some of the stories here lead across transition points;more often they only lead up to the transitions, and halt.In the grand British tradition we're led along the mangy paths of stifled resentment, unspoken hostilities, and then up onto the high street of Making Do.

Sounds kind of wearying, but it's done masterfully and the puzzle only comes together in the telling.A lot of the going or staying or agonizing is in the service of Orientation, of finding the way.

Gibraltar Straits
In this pared-down style of short story, there really isn't room for much foreground drama, so a lot of the progress is below those slowly moving surface tensions.Little shifts tell of great seismic pressures building below the appearances.

In one story situated near Gibraltar— itself a compact metaphor for both orientation and transition, an ostensibly Spanish peninsula ruled by the British— we have shadowy signifiers constantly making tracks across the groomed walks and driveways.Smugglers, perhaps refugees, regularly sneak across the undergrowth of the story, providing a kind of background noise of discontent, of unsettled scores.Gibraltar itself never notices, never nods, only acquiesces, as do the author's characters, people who are stuck on some borderline frontier of their own.

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