Mavis Gallant Quotes (RIP)

by Nicole Trilivas

“No one is as real to me as people in the novel. It grows like a living thing. When I realize they do not exist except in my mind I have a feeling of sadness, looking around for them, as if the half-empty café were a place I had once come to with friends who had all moved away.”

Cafe Scene, Raphael Soyer, 1946

Cafe Scene, Raphael Soyer, 1946

“I had again that second of pure joy I sometimes experience. It came, as always, without warning, and vanished nearly at once. I was on my way to the bakery with exactly eleven pesetas left. It is difficult to define and perhaps I shouldn’t try. It must be the highest and sharpest point of all the senses, or the mind, I don’t know. Remembering, I see myself and the street in a clear but blurry light, static, like a film abruptly stopped. I remember thinking suddenly these words, “Now I shall know,” then, when the rush of feeling I can only describe as pure joy was pulling away, these words: “This is why one lives.” It was like a wave and an inner explosion of light all at once, and not physical in any way.”

“Sometimes when I write I feel I am watched by, what—ghosts? Ghosts of people I have invented? If anyone comes in unexpectedly while I am working I am terrified.”

All quotes from  from her diary (March to June, 1952). Excepts published in the New Yorker here (