By Ali Smith
Publisher: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
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Decisamente bizzarro, ma interessante e coinvolgente, anche se non facile. E' coinvolgente, e al tempo stesso non si legge d'un fiato, anzi credo che meriterebbe più letture, ciascuna che rileva uno strato in più, come uno scavo archeologico. Ho trovato particolarmente intense le parti relative al gruppo di ragazzi in viaggio in Francia, e alla vecchietta in ospedale, mentre le altre le ho lette più lentamente, in particolare l'ultima, non perché non mi piacesse, ma perchè è più difficile da seguire, come anche il racconto della cena, forse perchè tanti aspetti specificamente british mi sfuggono.
Tabathua said on May 14, 2013, 15:37
THERE is no doubt in my mind that Ali Smith is a fine writer, a reader’s writer, maybe even a writer’s writer too, although I suspect there are writers out there who think she makes it all look as easy as an unmade bed. There you go, people differ hugely in what they rate as interesting or significant, but whatever kind of writer Smith is, she’s definitely my kind, and for the long term. There will be, I hope, many more of her books to enjoy since she is one of the rare woman writers I admire who is younger than I am. There’s a positive thought! There is profit to be found in the oddest places if only we look for it.
BUT what is this book about, you ask, with a title like that? There but for the..what? There but for the accidents of birth and death, the accidents of time and place, me here, you there, me now, you then, the inhumanity of man towards his fellow, all of the terrible things which, because they happen to you, can't happen to me. There but for the grace of God go I, as my parents' generation used to remark, in a kind of incantatory and consolatory refrain whenever they were faced with tragedy happening to other people. But the book is also about the fact that none of that matters in the end since in spite of the average reader’s better rather than worse life circumstances, in spite of our living in peace times rather than in war times, or hunger times, or pestilential times, or ‘disappeared’ times, in spite of the advances in technology we enjoy, in spite of life, there is always and only death. There but for...nothing, we all will die. That’s how I interpreted the title. But the title viewed as a whole is only part of what's going on here; Smith wants us to view it in sections too: There. But. For. The. And the sections serve to reveal the whole. The sections allow many interesting things to happen,, many big themes to be thrashed out.
FOR this book is about happenings and there is certainly a lot happening; bad things, sad things but sometimes miraculously brave things too. Some of the characters make things happen, others are acted upon in a kind of parallel with the artist/spectator relationship. Smith is the artist, manipulating events so that we, the readers, are caught up in the spectacle. To paraphrase herself, Smith catches us at exactly the moment of letting us go, she defies belief and then shows us that we were wrong ever to doubt her. For with Smith, we laugh until we cry and then we cry until we laugh again.
THE really funny thing is that I'm reading Proust at the moment and I can't help noticing the similar themes which emerge in these radically different books. The action of this book takes place mostly in Greenwich and one of the major themes is Time. There but for the is, in its own way, a search for lost time. And once I’d noticed this initial parallel with Proust, I found more and more convergences between the two books, and was pleased when Smith briefly mentions Proust, along with Joyce, near the end. The narrative of this novel takes us through forgotten time, remembered time, fugitive time, historical time, chronological time, dream time. The journey through time, just as in Proust, is enabled partly by music and song lyrics, partly through references to the performances of great artists of the past. Gracie Fields in one, Sarah Bernhardt in the other, rhyming couplets in one, alexandrine verse in the other. Mother obsessions in both, a precocious child in both and always, always, time passing, history happening.
Top of the pile said on Mar 30, 2013, 12:06
Ha rischiato di cuccarsi le cinque stelle anobiane, questo bel libro di Ami Smith. Il titolo è tutto un programma, e anche la narrazione scorre così, fluida persino quando (volutamente) accidentata. Uno stile piano, per una storia che gravita attorno a una bolla situazionale fra paradosso ed eccentricità. Con questo alibi l'Autrice porta il lettore verso la Sua interpretazione di quali siano le fragilità, di rapporto ma anche esistenziali, dell'uomo sociale d'oggi. Molto bene il primo e l'ultimo capitolo. Toc toc. Chi è?
Giax said on Jul 16, 2012, 00:26
The Omnivore said on Jun 21, 2011, 16:57