1922 Montréal, Canada
Buried in Print’s Mavis Gallant Short Story Project has motivated me to read along with her. Gallant published about 200 Short Stories, in The Collected Edition of The Short Stories of Mavis Gallant I have access to ninety of her stories. Buried in Print is Reading them all and I’m following along as I Can. Today, following lead of Buried in Print, I will be post on “The Pegnitz Junction”, the longest work in the collection.
Gallant packs a huge amount into the novella length work, you can see a master at work. The story takes place shortly after the end of World War II.
The main characters are a young woman, her lover and his young son. They are on a train, starting in Paris. (Pegnitz is a small town in Bavaria.) The couple are on a holiday and problems with the train system means everyone must be rerouted at the Pegnitz Junction.
As often once happened and maybe still does, people on a train knowing they will likely never see each other again, are more open with a stranger than someone they know.
Everyone on the train has been emotionally damaged by the war. In the conversations on the train we see how perceptions change, how we project things upon strsngers. The couples relationship has also been born in the pain of the war.
This is a very powerful work, highly compressed with a very European, to me, feel. We sense the characters concerns over the future, what kind of world will the man’s son grow up in?
Be sure to read the post of Buried in Print for her deep feeling for the story.
Next in the project is “The Old Friends”, I will post on that also.