Man Booker 2017: Autumn by Ali Smith

Smith's most recent novel has been labelled the first telling Post-Brexit work.

Man Booker 2017: Autumn by Ali Smith

Ali Smith has made her most recent book unbelievably current and relevant, capturing the atmosphere of political tensions after Brexit and reflecting the horrors of the refugee crisis so poignantly, only months after the referendum. It is the kind of work you wouldn't expect to see until a decade after the events it contains. However, Smith has captured this wonderfully with unprecedented speed. It takes a powerful book to have you laughing and crying within such a short page span and Autumn is beautifully written; a perfectly pitched political satire without risking cynicism.

The novel questions how we look at and interpret the world using utterly remarkable explorations of art and literature. The exploration of 1960's pop art culture, as well as interwoven allusions to texts such as Brave New World, A Tale of Two Cities and The Tempest were seamless, incredibly clever and, on occasion, thought-provoking. They challenge the reader to reconsider their readings and interpretations – something which 101-year old Daniel makes 32-year old Elisabeth do throughout. The characters are truly touching portrayals of the elderly and young at a time when the two generations might have seemed most divided. They also offer a wonderful conduit for some of the most brilliant contemporary satire in existence today - of both inane everyday bureaucracy and much grander political and social events.

Amazingly, the book is not bleak or entirely apocalyptic despite the difficult political events it draws on for material. Despite it being 'autumn' and the horrendous racism and intolerance which pervade the background of the novel, it maintains a sense of beauty and hope, rooted in the ongoing theme of art.

It is a very 'literary' novel and so those hoping for strong plot may be disappointed, however it is a sad, beautiful, relevant and thought-provoking analysis of our society today. As the first part of a four-novel Season cycle we can only hope Smith's next instalment can capture more recent political events with the same poignancy and deft commentary.


Ellen Orange

Ellen Orange Voice Contributor

I am a 24 year old Marketing Officer from the North East with a passion for arts and writing. I did a BA in English Literature and an MA in Twentieth and Twenty First Century Literature at Durham University, because I love books and reading! I have experience in writing for a variety of student publications, as well as having contributed to Living North, a regional magazine and Culture magazine, a supplement to regional newspaper, The Journal. I have been part of a Young Journalists scheme writing for NewcastleGateshead's Juice Festival, a young people's arts and culture festival, and have since become a Team Juice member. As well as reading and writing, I love theatre, photography and crafts.

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