Zadie Smith — Intimations

Penguin 2020 80 pages 978-0241492383

L’expérience collective des confinements n’a pas manqué de provoquer la production d’une imposante littérature, tantôt nombriliste tantôt moralisatrice, quand elle n’est pas les deux à la fois. Zadie Smith évite cet écueil dans tel essai, emporté par une prose impressionniste, mais s’y échoue dans tel autre essai, embourbé par une prose pleine de clichés. Vite écrite, vite publiée, cette collection sera vite oubliée. Comme les beaux sentiments qui étaient censés bâtir « le monde d’après ».

Notes

L’écriture comme résistance :

We try to adapt, to learn, to accommodate, sometimes resisting, other times submitting to, whatever confronts us. But writers go further: they take this largely shapeless bewilderment and pour it into a mould of their own devising. Writing is all resistance. Which can be a handsome, and sometimes even a useful, activity – on the page. But, in my experience, turns out to be a pretty hopeless practice for real life. In real life, submission and resistance have no predetermined shape. Even more befuddling, to a writer like me, is that the values normally associated with those words on a page – submission, negative; resistance, positive – cannot be relied upon out in the field. Sometimes it is right to submit to love, and wrong to resist affection.

Du temps sur les bras :

An attempt to connect the artist’s labour with the work of truly labouring people is frequently made but always strikes me as tenuous, with the fundamental dividing line being this question of the clock. Labour is work done by the clock (and paid by it, too). Art takes time and divides it up as art sees fit. It is something to do. But the crisis has taken this familiar division between the time of art and the time of work and transformed it. Now there are essential workers – who do not need to seek out something to do; whose task is vital and unrelenting – and there are the rest of us, all with a certain amount of time on our hands.