FROM THE FIFTEENTH DISTRICT by Mavis Gallant
Kirkus Star

FROM THE FIFTEENTH DISTRICT

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Eight short stories and a novella, set in Europe from the 1930s to the early '70s, in which Gallant again performs explorative microsurgery on the dense circuitry of delusion, sad obtuseness, or simple piggishness that drains away love, charity, and the fullness of life. Like lovers in love for the wrong reasons. . . ""The Moslem Wife"" is young Netta--bemused by her dazzling husband's harem of admirers, content in her own conjugal passion--but when the couple is separated by the War (they own a hotel in southern France), Netta finds only the darkest of afterglows. And ""Potter"" is what Canadian golden-girl Laurie calls Polish poet Piotr--whose wild infatuation for her grows apace till she spills to him her own history of rejection: ""An inferior,"" she had ""lost her seal of aristocracy. . . unable to command loyalty in exchange for passion."" Families, like lovers, also sear connections: in ""The Remission,"" a middle-aged English civil servant is dying in France, while in his blanched withdrawal from life (he rises only for the Queen's coronation on TV), his wife takes a lover, and his children are sealed into their own isolations. Other stories feature an ex-soldier in France who specializes in ""victim"" roles in cinema war games, the self-exiled widow of a tyrannical famous writer, and a peasant's-eye view of the tiny, terrible inanities of II Duce's Italy. And in the most directly moving story, a very young German ex-soldier and ex-POW comes home to ashes and plans vengeance on a generation that stopped the ""hammering heart"" of hope. A difficult but fine-tuned and elegant collection--the contents of which originally appeared in The New Yorker.

Pub Date: Sept. 7th, 1979
Publisher: Random House