Skip to main content Skip to search Skip to search

Drama Women Authors

What Is To Be Done?

by (author) Mavis Gallant

introduction by Linda Leith

Linda Leith Publishing
Initial publish date
Sep 2017
Women Authors, Canadian
  • Paperback / softback

    Publish Date
    Sep 2017
    List Price
  • eBook

    Publish Date
    Sep 2017
    List Price

Add it to your shelf

Where to buy it


Mavis Gallant's only play, which premiered at Toronto's Tarragon Theatre on November 11, 1982, is a comedy that opens in 1942, in the heat of the battle against Fascism, when it was possible for Canadians to cheer for both Stalin and the Royal Family. At home in Montreal, Jenny (18) is impressed by her friend Molly's copy of a political pamphlet written by V. I. Lenin entitled What Is To Be Done? The two young women are fascinated by the refugees who are flooding into the city from Europe, and they spend their spare time on left-wing political activity in support of the Soviet Union, dreaming of the new world they're certain will arise out of the ashes of the war.Drawing on Mavis Gallant's unpublished journals, the introduction by Linda Leith situates the play in the context of the author's life and work. "Before she left for Europe in 1950, Gallant destroyed all the poems and stories she had been writing, along with all the diaries she had kept. In the Linnet Muir of the Montreal stories and in the Jenny and the Molly of the play we have vivid portraits of young women whose hopes and fears and passions and dreams tell us as much as we are ever likely to know about the young woman who became Mavis Gallant."

About the authors

 Mavis Gallant (1922–2014) once told an interviewer that she could no more stop being Canadian than she could change the colour of her eyes. Born in Montreal, she left a career as a leading journalist in that city to move to Paris in 1950 to write.

She published stories on a regular basis in The New Yorker, many of which were anthologized. Her worldwide reputation was established by books such as From The Fifteenth District and Home Truths, which won the Governor General’s Award in 1982. In that same year she was made an Officer of the Order of Canada, becoming a Companion of the Order in 1993, the year she published Across the Bridge and was the recipient of a special tribute at the Harbourfront International Festival of Authors in Toronto. She received several honorary degrees from Canadian universities and remained a much sought-after public speaker.

Mavis Gallant's profile page

Linda Leith was born in Belfast, Northern Ireland. One of the most international of Canadian writers, she has lived in London, Basel, Brussels, Paris, Ottawa, Budapest and Montreal, where she founded the hugely successful Blue Metropolis Montreal International Literary Festival. She has a Ph.D. in English Literature from the University of London, England, and is the author of seven books, including the literary memoirs Writing in the Time of Nationalism and Marrying Hungary, as well as three critically well-received novels, Birds of Passage, The Tragedy Queen, and The Desert Lake, all published by Signature Editions. She has also been published by Vehicule Press and ECW Press, as well as XYZ Editeur and Lemeac (in French), and Rad (in Serbian).

Linda Leith's profile page

Editorial Reviews

"Gallant's knack for vivid detail is as assured here as it is in her most polished fiction. She's a sharp social critic, with a gift for pinpointing sham." - Martin Knelman, Saturday Night"Ambitious, invigorating and blessed with a quirky rhythm which continually employs indirection to find direction out. Its generous servings of language are especially appreciated." - Mark Czarnecki, Maclean's"Her fine ear for Canadian dialogue, her observations on Canadian society and her attunement to the Canadian sense of humour place Gallant firmly among the finest English Canadian writers. What Is To Be Done? is a continual delight." - Patrick O'Neill, Atlantis

Other titles by Mavis Gallant

Other titles by Linda Leith

Related lists