In 1944, she became a reporter for the Montreal Standard where she remained for six years. During that time, at age 20, she married John Gallant, but they divorced after five years. In 1950, she left her job at the newspaper to pursue fiction writing. She chose Paris as her home base, but has always remained a Canadian citizen. "I have arranged matters so that I would be free to write," she once told an interviewer. In another recent interview, she noted, "I came back regularly to Montreal, except in the period 1950 to1955, when I didn't have any money."
Gallant achieved her ambition quickly -- since 1951, she has published more than 100 stories, most of which first appeared in The New Yorker, where she continues to publish. Her stories are collected, along with several novellas, in: The Other Paris (1956), My Heart is Broken (1964), The Pegnitz Junction (1973), The End of the World and Other Stories (1974) and From the Fifteenth District: A Novella and Eight Stories (1979), Home Truths: Selected Canadian Stories (1981), Overhead in a Balloon: Stories of Paris (1985), In Transit (1988), and Collected Stories of Mavis Gallant (1996). She is also the author of two novels, Green Water, Green Sky (1969) and A Fairly Good Time (1970), a play What is to be done? 1984, and a non-fiction work, Paris Journals: Selected Essays and Reviews (1986).
In 1981, Gallant recieved the Governor General's award for literature for her collection of stories, Home Truths. The same year, she was appointed an Officer of the Order of Canada, and in 1993 was raised to the Companion, the Order's highest level. She is a Foreign Honorary Member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters, and a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature. Her more recent Canadian awards include the Molson literary award (1996), the Matt Cohen Award (2001) and a special achievement award from Montreal's Blue Metroplois Literary Festival (2002)
The 2002 Rea Award jurors, Deborah Eisenberg, Alice Munro and Joy Williams, cited the following in regard to Mavis Gallant's writing:
- "Mavis Gallant has shown us over and over again what a marvel a short story can be. You can start to read any one of her stories (it does not matter if it is one you have read ten times before) and you are at once swept away -- captivated, amazed, moved -- by the grace of her sentences, the ease of her wit, the suppleness of her narrative, the complexity and originality of her perfectly convincing characters. She is a fearless writer, apparently equal to representing on paper any aspect of mind or time, however subtle, intractable, or evanescent. And the great gift bestowed is that such skills seems less like skill than like magic -- it never makes you stop to admire it, but simply allows you to be carried into the depths of the story, and granted the piercing, powerful, live pleasure, the thrill of capture, which is what we are always hoping for when we take up a work of fiction."
Described by The New York Times as having radically reshaped the short story decade after decade," Gallant has contributed tot he short story genre for over half a century. "Her characters do not flee from home; they start out homeless, spending their lives conniving at accommodation with a century that started in horror and is ending in hollowness...Gallant primes us to expect them to be good or bad, but never hints which are which; in her stories tragedy can turn to comedy in a sentence...In a real sense her style and attitude are her message."