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Intimations: Six Essays (2020)

by Zadie Smith

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Showing 1-5 of 19 (next | show all)
This is a very short book, a couple of the essays in it are no more than a few pages, but it took me almost 2 weeks to read it. Life got in the way, as it has a tendency to do just before Christmas. But I am glad that I read it so slow, deferentially almost.

I am a lover of good writing, and Zadie Smith has not disappointed me yet. But the time of my reading, the end of this horrible year, when I so badly needed to see in writing our collective experience of 2020, has allowed me an emotional sigh, so strong that I think someone else in the room would hear my breath.

For me the strongest essay in the collection was Postscript: Contempt as an Virus where the realization that COVID was not the worst pandemic of this year: racism is, as it has been for centuries.

I highly recommend it, if for no other reason that Zadie Smith has donated all proceeds of the book to charities. There is so much need around us. And definitely there is a need for the reckoning of what we, as a human community, have experienced this year. ( )
  RosanaDR | Apr 15, 2021 |
Pandemic Era Essays
Review of the Penguin Books paperback edition (July, 2020)

This short book of essays was written early during the COVID pandemic of 2020-202? and issued to benefit Equal Justice and COVID Relief Charities. I especially enjoyed the observational character portraits of several strangers in New York in Screengrabs and the listing of gratitude to various family, friends, writers and musicians in Intimations. Overall, there is really not that much about the COVID pandemic as such, aside from the eerie feeling of leaving NYC and her teaching post at New York University. The most dramatic piece of writing is Postscript: Contempt as a Virus which likens the spread of racism and hate to a viral infection.
I used to think that there would one day be a vaccine: that if enough Black people named the virus, explained it, demonstrated how it operates, videoed its effect, protested it peacefully, revealed how widespread it really is, how the symptoms arise, how so many Americans keep giving it to each other, irresponsibly and shamefully, generation after generation, causing intolerable and unending damage both to individual bodies and to the body politic - I thought if that knowledge became as widespread as could possibly be managed or imagined that we might finally reach some kind of herd immunity. I don’t think that anymore. ( )
  alanteder | Apr 6, 2021 |
This is a small book of essays written about and during the COVID pandemic. They move between character portraits, musings on race and gender, and just thoughts on lockdown and isolation. It's pretty slight but they are all interesting reads. ( )
  AlisonSakai | Apr 3, 2021 |
Zadie Smith's Intimations is a collection of 6 brief essays examining the already obstrusive issues reared worse during the current global pandemic. They struck me more as personal sentiments rather than anything provocative. And this collection begins with a feminist assessment of time against the expectations of women, her biological clock and making, then Smith's frustration with their confining, absurd deadlines. It seems to be one of the multiple things she has pondered on when in lockdown besides the desire to turn tulips into peonies. Perhaps, with it, the desire to change these expectations as well.

The essays then take a different form and turn to the events in the US. How racial discrimination, economic disparity, and social hierarchy have become apparent, have been magnified by the pandemic. It has caused a fury of political unrest. All the more with the brutal death of George Floyd. And with millions of people without jobs, with limited to no financial aid from the government, the faults and cruelty of such a system are exposed. A country built from slavery shows how its gears still run on this same fuel of oppression. Smith's ultimate lamentation of healthcare as a right and not a privilege shouldn't be conditional. Among the essays of Smith, Contempt as a Virus, I think, deeply encompass the persistent racism, our inherent prejudice, and concern for privacy (in the name of big tech companies and their data collection) in the US.

Smith doesn't forget the alteration of our lives and other peoples' at present; how suffering is absolute, how time has become stagnant, an excess, how we try to manage and fill the time with anything to do. Yet mostly, I like how she argues without love, we're only doing time; that's love and all its façades (Something To Do essay). I think the pandemic has brought all of us a lot of questions and outcomes—mostly negative. But also space to contemplate about our lives, its shortness and incomprehensibility. It could get lonely out there. More so when most of us are stuck at home, living day by day in similar successions, and painstakingly trying our best to survive. What we needed most is empathy. On the funny side, everyone has turned into a gardener or a baker. So there are things to do. There are things to love. It suffices to remind and comfort one's self that everything is impermanent; that time passes. ( )
  lethalmauve | Jan 25, 2021 |
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It stares you in the face. No role is so well suited to philosophy as the one you happen to be in right now.
—Marcus Aurelius

My vocabulary is adequate for writing notes and keeping journals but absolutely useless for an active moral life.
—Grace Paley
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