Ali Smith said: all novels are about society and time. They can’t be a novel and not be about these two things.
She also said many other interesting things that mild April evening at the bookshop below the British Museum, about curlews, and locks, and what to do when we’re stuck in our writing (wait, and maybe go for a walk), and the stratification of the human-being, and she laughed and sang and held her partner, and it was just a wonderful evening from start to finish, making us all realize how much we had missed gatherings like these the last two years.
I’ve seldomly heard someone answering questions more precisely. She sounded, with every reply, as if this was something she had given thought to before and made up her mind about, while at the same time sounding as if she’s just now, in this very moment, developing the words to give tangible shape to her thoughts (ah, yes, this was also one of the things she spoke about – how the process of talking is also one of our senses).
She reminded me of Molière’s Monsieur Jourdain, the bourgeois gentilhomme; as if she, too, only talks in prose all her life, and sometimes, when we’re lucky, she comes to the bookshop below the British Library, or writes it down, so we can hear it too.
And she reminded me of another thing: my love for writing.
It’s just such a beautiful thing, to have language, to have words, to be able to string them together and make them make sense to a room full of people. To explain the world around us to ourselves, and everyone who wants to listen, finding the globe in a thousand-and-one small things, microscopical things, really, the demise of any sort of relationship, or the start of one, the moving, the to-ing and the fro-ing, the yearning for adulthood all our life and the simultaneous yearning for our childhood as soon as it is lost, the grief and absolute joy of being human. It’s all so very beautiful, and sometimes writing and reading about it galvanizes us, shocks us into the realization that this, this, all of this is real, and important, and valid. I’m itching to get back into it, so that maybe one day I, too, will be a Madame Jourdain – a bourgeoise gentillefemme, who only speaks in prose.