ROUGH WEATHER

WIN­TER, ALI SMITH’S FOL­LOW UP TO AU­TUMN FROM HER SEA­SON QUAR­TET, IS A SIGN OF THE TIMES NOVEL

The Gulf Today - Panorama - - Books - by Lucy Sc­holes

Hot on the heels of Au­tumn mak­ing this year’s Man Booker short­list comes Win­ter, the sec­ond of Ali Smith’s Sea­son Quar­tet. In the same way that Au­tumn spoke di­rectly to the con­tem­po­rary mo­ment — “Here’s an old story so new that it’s still in the mid­dle of hap­pen­ing” — so too Win­ter is set in a recog­nis­able world, not the dead of win­ter of a Bri­tain of yes­ter­year, but rather “a bright sunny post-mil­len­nial global-warm­ing Christ­mas Eve morn­ing.”

It’s a story “about real things re­ally hap­pen­ing in the real world in­volv­ing real peo­ple in real time on the real earth.”

Win­ter isn’t Au­tumn’s se­quel, there’s no carry-over of char­ac­ters or story, but there are struc­tural sim­i­lar­i­ties be­tween the two vol­umes, both in terms of the dy­namic of a younger gen­er­a­tion in di­a­logue with an older, and the cen­tral role played by an artist and their work.

At the heart of the story is Sophia and her older sis­ter Iris, the for­mer a re­tired busi­ness­woman in her 60s, the lat­ter a life­long ac­tivist, and their in­ter­ac­tions with Sophia’s 20-some­thing son Art, and Lux, a Croa­t­ian-cana­dian im­mi­grant whom he pays to pre­tend to be his girl­friend for Christ­mas.

Where Au­tumn wove the story of for­got­ten

Pop artist Pauline Boty into its pages, here it’s the more fa­mous Bar­bara Hep­worth who plays an im­por­tant role. (Art’s fa­ther was a fan, in­tro­duc­ing Sophia to the work.) What would be clunky in an­other writer’s work is seam­less in Smith’s, and in­te­gral too. As Iris at­tests: “Art is see­ing things.” So too Smith’s prose — that trade­mark mis­chievous wit and word­play, a joy­ful reminder of the most ba­sic, el­e­men­tal de­lights of read­ing — makes us see things dif­fer­ently.

Al­though there’s no tra­di­tional Christ­mas mir­a­cle in Win­ter, the en­tire book is in its own way tes­ta­ment to the mirac­u­lous pow­ers of the creative arts.

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