July 26, 2021

Zadie Smith in full short forms: “Grand Union” and “Indices”

“Grand Union”, by Zadie Smith, translated from English by Laetitia Devaux, Gallimard, “Du monde”, 288 p., € 21, digital € 15.

“Indices” (Intimations. Six Essays), by Zadie Smith, translated from English by Sika Fakambi, Folio, unpublished, 144 p., € 8.60, digital € 8.50.

In a short story entitled “Blockage Situation,” Zadie Smith portrays a well-known writer, once tempted by the ongoing literary challenge – “When you’re young, you feel all-powerful, you want to prove that you can do anything”. But time has done its work: not only does he no longer try to prove anything to anyone, but he feels liberated and simply walks with his dog, without wondering all the time. « s’[il] is the only one who knows what a dog really is and what is the reason for his presence on earth ”. Writing ? While he has certainly not abandoned it, he practices it differently. He who loved the “Sublime shapes” began to appreciate the fragments, the debris. ” Who am I, he asks, to say that a fragment is essentially incomplete? Who am I to turn away from a crumb? “

After ample and ambitious romantic constructions – since its inaugural Wolf smile (2001), which propelled it to the forefront of the international literary scene, until Swing Time (2018) through Beauty and Those of the Northwest (2007 and 2014, all at Gallimard) – Zadie Smith offers us with Grand Union his first collection of short stories. Nineteen texts of all formats, including very short ones. Crumbs, in short. But crisp and always stimulating, even if sometimes a little experimental – especially in texts without intrigue or narrator such as “Open day at school: the story of an epiphany”, “The moods”, or in the story of anticipation “The chancre”. Fortunately, we also find here Zadie Smith in her more usual vein – the one we prefer -, for example in “Deconstructing the Kelso Cochrane affair” where, on the occasion of a racist crime, Smith brings us to us. ultimately question the idea according to which “The world comes down to words”.

Written in New York during the first confinement

The world and words – what the first spills, what the second catch -, this is precisely the guideline of the six unpublished essays which appear in Folio under the title Indices. Short texts too, written in New York during the first confinement, and where Smith, strengthened by the reading of Marcus Aurelius, tries to“Organize impressions and thoughts” aroused in her by this “Particular year” what was “The great world mortification” 2020.

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