Petronia Popa Petrar

“You can’t step into the same story twice:” Questioning Storytelling in Ali Smith’s Novels

In an interview with Gillian Beer published in 2013, the Scottish author Ali Smith discusses the inevitability of storytelling and what she describes as the omnipresent “calibration of voice” in order to reveal her interest in “who’s got the authority to have the voice” (Beer, in Germanà and Horton, eds., 2013, 138). The present paper proposes a reading of Smith’s novels, with a special focus on the first three installments of her Seasonal Quartet, as ethical investigations into various forms of authority both assigned, and denied to narrative by the circulation, imposition or suppression of voices emerging from a disintegrating globalized contemporary world. Against the background of Brexit, the three volumes of the quartet published so far (Autumn, Winter, Spring) pay increased attention to the totalitarian potential of narrative, in the guise of the new social media or official discourse, to control or even erase the voices of migrant or marginalized individuals and communities. To this, she opposes the “elasticity” and “generosity” of stories revisited, but in which we can never step twice (Artful, 2012, 31), nevertheless allowing us to recover the multiplicity of languages – from Latin to Scottish Gaelic – that acts as a signal of hope at the end of Spring.

Petronia Popa Petrar, Babeș-Bolyai University, Cluj-Napoca, Romania