Short Stories, Irish literature, Classics, Modern Fiction, Contemporary Literary Fiction, The Japanese Novel, Post Colonial Asian Fiction, The Legacy of the Austro-Hungarian Empire and quality Historical Novels are Among my Interests

Saturday, July 6, 2019

Luc and his Father - A Short Story set in Paris by Mavis Gallant - 1982 - republished in Overhead in a Balloon and Other Stories

Works Read so for Paris in July 2019

  1. At the Existentialist Cafe:Freedom, Being and Apricot  Cocktails by Sarah Blackwell.  2016 - An exploration of the Parisian origins of French post World War Two Existentialism 
  2. Suzanne's Children: A Daring Rescue in Nazi Paris by Anne Nelson. 2017- an important addition to French Holocaust Literature
  3. Journey to the Edge of the Night by Louis-Ferdinand Celine -1932
  4. Death on The Installment Plan by Louis-Ferdinand Celine - 1936
  5. "Luc and his Father" - a set in Paris short story by Mavis Gallant - 1982

Please consider participating in Paris in July 2019, hosted by Thyme for Tea.  

This story was first published September 26, 1982 in the New Yorker.  It is included in Overhead  in a Balloon and other Stories, a 1990 collection of some of her based in Paris stories.

Mavis Gallant

April 11, 1922 - Montreal

1950 - moves to Paris

September 1, 1951- publishes, in The New Yorker, her first short story.  She would publish 116 stories in The New Yorker. 

February 18, 2014 - passes away in her beloved Paris

Mavis Gallant loved Paris.  Today's story, "Luc and his father",set in Paris around 1979, centers on the relationship of a young man, Luc, ready to start as has long been planned, engineering school, and his father.

All four of the works I have so far read for Paris in July 2019 are related to the social upheaval produced in French society by the World Wars.  All four works present a world in which old truthes no longer sustain people.  In the Existentialists we see a highly intellectualized presentation of this theme.  In the classic novels of Celine, we see a destroyed culture through the eyes of a French World War One trench warfare survivor.  In Suzanne's Children: A Daring Rescue in Nazi Paris by Anne Nelson we see the participation of the French in turning French Jews over to the Germans.  The righteousness people seem to be foreigners living in Paris more than native Paridians.  

As "Luc and his Father" opens, World War Two ended over thirty years ago but I detect a lingering influence as seen in the father's xenophobia (which extends even to the English) and his tendency to blame the ills of French society on the collapse of France's colonial Empire (he attributes the rising price of some agricultural products to the lose of Algeria).  

The family has just gotten very disappointing news.  Luc has flunked the entrance exam for engineering school.  The father blames Charles de Gaulle.  He thinks that in the old days his son would have not had to compete with students from former colonies for tutoring from his teachers.  He and his wife see this as evidence of the decline of French society.  

Like any Gallant story, there is a lot going on, including the intrusion of Luc's Russian girl friend, to the horror of his parents.

The characters in this story feel they have been robbed  of the entitlements due a "Real French Citizen" by France's post World War Two social policies.


Buried In Print said...

I giggled, but a sad giggle, at the idea that de Gaulle's having made education accessible for all had injured young Luc, because it meant that, with so many more capable students at the school, it was obvious just how unfocussed (or, *cough* un-smart) Luc actually was. This kind of thinking is something I recognize and I found a lot of the sentiments here all-too-familiar, despite the historical setting. No question that Gallant was astute and all-kinds-of-smart!

Enjoy your reading in Paris this month...I'm still hoping to join in a little!

Carola Bartz said...

I hadn't heard of Mavis Gallant until I read your post. The topic though sounds familiar and I can easily see something similar in our current life here. Incredible sad.