Mavis Gallant and Monsieur Le Verbe

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Alors, Mademoiselle, have you noticed how we French, unlike our Anglo-Saxon friends, use all the muscles in our face and mouth when speaking? Raise your upper lip toward your nose. When performed correctly, this action will cause the nostrils to flare. Now tip your neck back…and without slackening the tension, articulate a pure clear U-sound, thinking of a bird gliding up to a high branch.

Becoming the next Mavis Gallant—writing “wise and sly” fiction in English while gallivanting around Paris in flawless French—is harder than it looks.

Actually, as Laurel Berger describes it, becoming the next Mavis Gallant looks pretty hard. But reading Berger’s essay about it is certainly fun.


Lauren O'Neal is an MFA student at San Francisco State University. Her writing has appeared in publications like Slate, The New Inquiry, and The Hairpin. You can follow her on Twitter at @laureneoneal. More from this author →