Ali Smith on trusting the form to bring us closer to the truth
Keen readers queued around the block to enter the beautiful courtyard of Palazzo San Sebastiano in Mantova to hear Scottish author Ali Smith speak about her latest work, the Seasonal Quintet which started with Autumn in 2016 and will eventually conclude with Spring in 2020.
Framed by the pillars of the loggia of this wonderful early XVI-century palace (now the City Museum) built by Marquis of Mantua Francis II Gonzaga and now housing the City Museum, Ali Smith, in conversation with Oxford academic Teresa Franco, talked of how books choose their author and tell their compelling story through them.
While writing How to be Both in 2014 against the clock, compelled by an urgent tax bill (the book was published within six weeks of completion, unlike the standard 9-18 months), the author was reminded that the novel can indeed be used to fulfill its etymological role of bringing news. The novel can be an urgent, hot-off-the-press commentary on the the state of the present world.
While the talk veered away from actual political topics, Ali Smith reminded us of the real value of fiction, using stories to tell of our common humanity. Trusting the form to help us make sense of the world and keep the dialogue open is what will keep writers writing and readers reading.