Op 4 juni 2008 las ik op internet een lezing die Zadie Smith gaf op 24 maart 2008. Dan en dan, dat en dat, het zal wel waar zijn!

De lezing gaat over Zadie Smiths ambacht – schrijven: ‘Craft is too grand and foreign a word to describe what gets done most days in your pajamas. So naturally the temptation is to gussy it up a bit, to find a garment to dress your private language in, something suitable. You borrow the quantifying language of the critic, maybe, or the conceptual analysis of the academic. And then, with a queasy, fraudulent feeling, you try and pass this off as an accurate representation of what it is to write a novel. The result is convincing and has every rhetorical advantage, except one: it isn’t true. For there’s an important difference between the way a writer thinks about craft, and the ways critics and academics think about craft. Critics and academics are dedicated to the analysis of craft after the fact. Their accounts are indispensable for anyone who reads fiction and cares for it, but they are not truly concerned with craft as it is practiced. What I mean is: they can’t help a writer as she writes.’

Dat after the fact intrigeert, het is mogelijk niet zo interessant. ‘But a lecture on craft… at once something fraudulent creeps into the enterprise, there’s a whiff of snake oil. I speak from experience, having written a few Art of Fiction polemics and regretted them all. In my opinion one should run, not walk, from any essay entitled The Art of Fiction that is not about the art of a particular piece of fiction, or several. I don’t believe in craft in the abstract — each individual novel is its own rule book, training ground, factory, and independent republic. The only time I feel I’m writing honestly about craft — either my own or craft in general — is when I have a specific piece of fiction in my sights, when I’m writing about Middlemarch or Take a Girl Like You or Libra or The Trial; when I, as Humbert Humbert put it, have some actual words to play with.’

Over Middlemarch, Kafka en Humbert Humbert schrijft ze in Changing my mind, haar essaybundel.

Schrijven over concrete dingen, niet over abstracte. Praten over The falling eye van Saskia Olde Wolbers, niet over kunst, immers, waar heb je het over? Toch niet over een gemiddelde, een begrip, een omschrijving, waarin elk werk zich kan vinden. Onhoudbaar en weinigzeggend. (De mens bestaat ook niet. Ja, op de NASA plaque bestaat en staat de mens – goudglinsterend, poedelnaakt te bewonderen, vlak voordat hij de ruimte in wordt geschoten om vervolgens voorgoed uit beeld te verdwijnen.)