The first of four novels in a shape-shifting series, wide-ranging in timescale and light-footed through histories. Fusing Keatsian mists and mellow fruitfulness with the vitality, the immediacy and the colour-hit of Pop Art — via a bit of very contemporary skulduggery and skull-diggery — Autumn is a witty excavation of the present by the past. The novel is a stripped-branches take on popular culture, and a meditation, in a world growing ever more bordered and exclusive, on what richness and worth are, what harvest means. Autumn is part of the quartet Seasonal: four stand-alone novels, separate yet interconnected and cyclical (as the seasons are), exploring what time is, how we experience it and the recurring markers in the shapes our lives take and in our ways with narrative. (From Hamish Hamilton)
Autumn is on the 2017 Man Booker Prize longlist.
It was the worst of times, it was the worst of times.
Again. That's the thing about things. They fall apart, always have, always will, it's in their nature. So an old old man washes up on a shore. He looks like a punctured football with its stitching split, the leather kind that people kicked a hundred years ago. The sea's been rough. It has taken the shirt off his back; naked as the day I was born are the words in the head he moves on its neck, but it hurts to. So try not to move the head. What's this in his mouth, grit? it's sand, it's under his tongue, he can feel it, he can hear it grinding when his teeth move against each other, singing its sand-song: I'm ground so small, but in the end I'm all, I'm softer if I'm underneath you when you fall, in sun I glitter, wind heaps me over litter, put a message in a bottle, throw the bottle in the sea, the bottle's made of me, I'm the hardest grain to harvest to harvest the words for the song trickle away. He is tired. The sand in his mouth and his eyes is the last of the grains in the neck of the sandglass.
From Autumn by Ali Smith ©2017. Published by Hamish Hamilton.