Tuesday, June 5, 2007

ali smith

At first I was daunted by this novel’s structure, because it seemed too conservative. Nobody would think that a novel divided in three sections, called: “The beginning”, “The middle” and “The end”, would be able to transform the narration in an almost stream of consciousness manifesto that belies the notion of linear recitation.

“The accidental” relies on its verbal flair, rapid description and musical constructions that keep the narrative flowing. It even allows formal experimentation when some sections are transformed into verse, almost poems that are lay out as caligrams. Although the characters of the novel seem quite conventional in many aspects (a middle class family: wife, husband and two kids, girl and boy whose lives are disturbed/changed when Amber, ‘the accidental’ shows up at their vacation cottage) it manages to pass on, precisely through its apparent banality, the horrors of what we are living now, in a concealed and ironic way.
For instance, a scene that I like, involves Eve (mother of this family and writer) talking with her editor. When they meet to discuss a dateline for her book, Eve says: “I thought this time I might write about a person who dies… A Palestinian boy, I was thinking, like that twelve-year-old the soldiers shot… Or what about if I wrote about someone who’s alive right now, but will be dead tomorrow morning, say? In Iraq?” (198). And though later she says to the editor that she’s just teasing her, this concern stays throughout the entire novel.
As the author has said:
“Although people won't think this immediately, I think it's a war novel. We lived through a war as though we were not at war in this country. We saw it on television but we saw a very different version of it which would be unrecognisable to people from elsewhere.' So The Accidental becomes a book which is also about what is real and what isn't; insiders and outsiders; who gets to tell who want to think”.

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