Withoout any note of exaggeration, Ali Smith is now firmly established as one of Scotland’s greatest living writers, and that was more than alluded to by Jess Orr’s introduction. Originally scheduled to be with Kamilla Shamsie, this event with Ali Smith, is illuminiating, insightful and reaffirming. Discussing the third in her seasonal novels, Spring, she paints a portrait of British people wrestling with hate, division and dark times. These books with a Brexit-infused setting are as much about character than setting, and it is stunning to hear those voices via the much-adored Ali Smith.
Spring is unique, the third in the Seasonal Quartet by Smith. There is much about Spring that lingers in this novel, the leaves on its trees will open after blossom, there is optimism despite these grim times. The dawn breaks cold and still but, deep in the earth, things are growing.
Despite Kamilla Shamsie cancelling, there is nothing lost with this event. Jess, having chaired an event with Ali previously in the year for Open the Door 2019, which celebrates the work of Scottish female writers, confidently takes the stage and enlightens us with her vast knowledge of Ali Smiths work.
When discussing the seasons, and her plan to begin writing Summer in December, Ali reminds us that we have, “distilled notions of a season best when not in it,” and Let It Snow was written in the Summer. The optimism in Smith’s Spring comes from somewhere, and that is obvious as she proclaims, “depth is in us, we don’t always know how to connect with it.” The connection between seasons and stories are also explored as we are reminded that seasons are as much social constructs as tales.
Omitting her reminder of that Toni Morrison quote, “We do language,” Ali’s most insightful moment is in exclaiming, “no book exists without the books,” not only hinting that to be writers we must be readers, but also suggesting that references are rife in literature and often to culminate a great piece of work, we ought to bear in mind the literature already written and let it affect you in the way as is with reading.
For more on the Edinburgh International Book Festival programme click here.