A brief collection of brief pieces from the start of the pandemic, and gathered around that theme, with Zadie Smith’s usual wise musings on culture, philosophy, literature and everyday life.
When I say brief, I read it in less than an hour, so I mean brief. Despite the chatty discursive style, there’s a lot to big stuff to digest: the meaning of time, is there really any point in art, and where does thinking about all this actually get us in ‘unprecedented times’.
It’s a strange and sad feeling to read pieces written with such immediacy at the outbreak of covid when nobody knew how it would play out. The sense of hope in the first lockdown spring and summer, when despite everything we marvelled at traffic-free streets, blue skies, birdsong, a greater sense of community, a deeper appreciation of nature, that this crisis might just be the beginning of a new way of living, that perhaps we could keep all this – why go back to how things were? But here we are, pretty much back to how things were – and nothing seems to have been learned, nothing changed, a false dawn, an opportunity for real change lost.