Ali Smith “Elsewhere”

Ali Smith was born in Inverness in 1962 and lives in Cambridge.

Her books have won and been shortlisted for many awards.  Her recent publications include How To Be Both (2014), winner of the Goldsmiths and Baileys Prize and the Costa Book Award for Best Novel; a collection of short stories, Public Library (2015), and the novels Autumn (2016) and Winter (2017), the first two novels in a “seasonal quartet”. Like Smith’s earlier novels Hotel World (2001), The Accidental (2005) and How to Be BothAutumn was shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize.

Ali Smith possesses the perfect characteristics of the short story writer: rigorous self-discipline in the planning process, an eagle eye for condensing detail, a capacity for using the personal and individual to suggest universal truths and a skill for hinting at a wider world beyond the story.

Her triumph in the women’s fiction prize confirmed her as one of our pre-eminent writers. And, she says, the award shares her own preoccupation – how to assert a complex female identity in a world that tells women to be simple.

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Let´s read the following article together.

The Art of Being Elsewhere

How ironic is the fact that she has included the following poem in her writing?


If you can keep your head when all about you

    Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,

If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,

    But make allowance for their doubting too;

If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,

    Or being lied about, don’t deal in lies,

Or being hated, don’t give way to hating,

    And yet don’t look too good, nor talk too wise:

If you can dream—and not make dreams your master;

    If you can think—and not make thoughts your aim;

If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster

    And treat those two impostors just the same;

If you can bear to hear the truth you’ve spoken

    Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,

Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,

    And stoop and build ’em up with worn-out tools:

If you can make one heap of all your winnings

    And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,

And lose, and start again at your beginnings

    And never breathe a word about your loss;

If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew

    To serve your turn long after they are gone,

And so hold on when there is nothing in you

    Except the Will which says to them: ‘Hold on!’

If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,

    Or walk with Kings—nor lose the common touch,

If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you,

    If all men count with you, but none too much;

If you can fill the unforgiving minute

    With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run,

Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,

    And—which is more—you’ll be a Man, my son!


Let´s discuss!

In pairs, choose another article from the festival to read and talk to the class.



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