For the longest time, I avoided “pandemic” literature. I did not want to read about the lockdown, about the Corona virus, about Covid-19, about lack of vaccines, of how people had to migrate, what difficulties we faced as a community, and what did the pandemic signify for decades to come. I just did not want to read about it, till I did when I read some fantastic books last year such as “How High We Go in the Dark” and “Sea of Tranquility”, each of them just telling me more about the human connection, and how we can only survive through empathy.
Zadie Smith’s most profound and striking piece of writing is this collection of six essays about how we live – then and now, if we change as humans, if we have learned anything at all from the situation that was, and what it is now – only of course she speaks of 2020 through these essays that are about people she knows, people she doesn’t know all that much, of life as a writer before and during the pandemic, of how we all learned to live, and some had to learn to survive.
The art of the essay is a unique one – to separate the personal from the public and political, and to merge them when you want to suffuse intimacy with tenderness, which she does most marvellously through these short six pieces. My most favourite piece has to be, “Contempt as a Virus” where she speaks of race, of class, and how there is nothing different between it and the fast-spreading virus.
“Intimations” is a collection of non-combative, meditative, and hits you directly from the author’s subconscious and what we all experienced – that collective experience is not only recognisable or relatable, but also brings to fore a lot of empathy, as the pages turn.
Books and Authors mentioned in Intimations:
Meditations by Marcus Aurelius
Toni Cade Bambara
Zora Neale Hurston
Lives of the Artists by Vasari