From “The Northwest London Blues” by Zadie Smith

During another period of ex-pat existence, in Italy, I sat at a Roman café table in a Renaissance square rolling my eyes at the soap opera of Italian political life: wire-tapped politicians and footballers and TV stars, backroom media deals, glaring conflicts of interest, tabloid culture run riot, politicians in the pockets of newspapers. I used to chuckle over la Repubblica and tease my Italian friends about the kind of problems we didn’t have in our basically sound British parliamentary democracy.

And so I recognize myself to be an intensely naïve person. Most novelists are, despite frequent pretensions to deep socio-political insight. And I retain a particular naivety concerning the British state, which must seem comical to many people, particularly younger people. I can only really account for it by reaching back again, briefly, into the past. It’s a short story about debt—because I owe the state, quite a lot. Some people owe everything they have to the bank accounts of their parents. I owe the state. Put simply, the state educated me, fixed my leg when it was broken, and gave me a grant that enabled me to go to university. It fixed my teeth (a bit) and found housing for my veteran father in his dotage. When my youngest brother was run over by a truck it saved his life and in particular his crushed right hand, a procedure that took half a year, and which would, on the open market—so a doctor told me at the time—have cost a million pounds. Those were the big things, but there were also plenty of little ones: my subsidized sports centre and my doctor’s office, my school music lessons paid for with pennies, my university fees. My NHS glasses aged 9. My NHS baby aged 33. And my local library. To steal another writer’s title: England made me. It has never been hard for me to pay my taxes because I understand it to be the repaying of a large, in fact, an almost incalculable, debt.

(Source: nybooks.com)

@2 years ago with 2 notes
#Non-fiction #Zadie Smith #The New York Review of Books #Literature #State services #Local government #London #Willesden #Libraries #Austerity 

"The shelves hold only books put out by state publishing houses; nothing imported and, as expected, nothing critical of the Revolution. This is part of life where the state is not about to give up control. The last privately published books in Cuba appeared at the very start of the Revolution and were banned as subversive. Among them was Orwell’s Animal Farm, whose long-ago Cuban publishers sought to alert readers to the dangers of an omnipotent totalitarian state—the very state the ruling party has now slowly and with utmost care begun dismantling, in fear that it may blow up in its hands."

An interesting, nuanced and literary appraisal of Cuba in the light of recent and ostensibly far-reaching economic reforms, from José Manuel Prieto in a recent edition of The New York Review of Books: “Havana: The State Retreats”
@3 years ago with 12 notes
#Politics #Writings #José Manuel Prieto #The New York Review of Books #Cuba 
From “The Northwest London Blues” by Zadie Smith

During another period of ex-pat existence, in Italy, I sat at a Roman café table in a Renaissance square rolling my eyes at the soap opera of Italian political life: wire-tapped politicians and footballers and TV stars, backroom media deals, glaring conflicts of interest, tabloid culture run riot, politicians in the pockets of newspapers. I used to chuckle over la Repubblica and tease my Italian friends about the kind of problems we didn’t have in our basically sound British parliamentary democracy.

And so I recognize myself to be an intensely naïve person. Most novelists are, despite frequent pretensions to deep socio-political insight. And I retain a particular naivety concerning the British state, which must seem comical to many people, particularly younger people. I can only really account for it by reaching back again, briefly, into the past. It’s a short story about debt—because I owe the state, quite a lot. Some people owe everything they have to the bank accounts of their parents. I owe the state. Put simply, the state educated me, fixed my leg when it was broken, and gave me a grant that enabled me to go to university. It fixed my teeth (a bit) and found housing for my veteran father in his dotage. When my youngest brother was run over by a truck it saved his life and in particular his crushed right hand, a procedure that took half a year, and which would, on the open market—so a doctor told me at the time—have cost a million pounds. Those were the big things, but there were also plenty of little ones: my subsidized sports centre and my doctor’s office, my school music lessons paid for with pennies, my university fees. My NHS glasses aged 9. My NHS baby aged 33. And my local library. To steal another writer’s title: England made me. It has never been hard for me to pay my taxes because I understand it to be the repaying of a large, in fact, an almost incalculable, debt.

(Source: nybooks.com)

2 years ago
#Non-fiction #Zadie Smith #The New York Review of Books #Literature #State services #Local government #London #Willesden #Libraries #Austerity 
"The shelves hold only books put out by state publishing houses; nothing imported and, as expected, nothing critical of the Revolution. This is part of life where the state is not about to give up control. The last privately published books in Cuba appeared at the very start of the Revolution and were banned as subversive. Among them was Orwell’s Animal Farm, whose long-ago Cuban publishers sought to alert readers to the dangers of an omnipotent totalitarian state—the very state the ruling party has now slowly and with utmost care begun dismantling, in fear that it may blow up in its hands."
An interesting, nuanced and literary appraisal of Cuba in the light of recent and ostensibly far-reaching economic reforms, from José Manuel Prieto in a recent edition of The New York Review of Books: “Havana: The State Retreats”
3 years ago
#Politics #Writings #José Manuel Prieto #The New York Review of Books #Cuba