I suppose that a Canadian is someone who has a logical reason to think he is one. My logical reason is that I have never been anything else, nor has it occurred to me that I might be.
(Mavis Gallant, Introduction to Home Truths1)
Mavis Gallant is an oddity on the Canadian literary scene, a truly cosmopolitan writer and not really ‘on' the Canadian scene at all until quite recently.2 Since 1960 she has been living in Paris writing short stories for The New Yorker and novels which have been published in the United States and England but not in Canada till 1974. (Her first book to be published in Canada was the New Canadian Library volume The End o f the World and Other Stories.) She is a writer Canadians have not ident ified or identified with as Canadian until From the Fifteenth District (1979) and Home Truths (1981). In November 1981 Mavis Gallant returned to do a cross-country tour to promote her first collection of Canadian stories and was back as writer in residence at the University of Toronto 1983-4. She has since returned to Paris. Hers is certainly Canadian fiction with a difference, interesting to readers outside Canada precisely because she is a Canadian expatriate, but not ‘expatriot ’ as she
insists in her introduction to Home Truths. The cliche title of this Canadian collection alerts us to her approach. Though no story in the volume is called ‘Home Truths’ yet ‘telling a few home truths’ is what it is about, for she takes a very critical look at ‘Canadian’ and its usefulness as a descriptive term just as she scrutinizes Canadian ideals of nationalism, cultural heritage, multi-ethnicity and the idea of ‘home’ itself. She attacks cliches, or as Wordsworth once put it, ‘those arbitrary connections of feelings and ideas with particular words or phrases from which no man can altogether protect himself’,3 in the interests of lucid understanding and discriminating judgement.