stories from The New Yorker

Moonlit Landscape with Bridge


Photograph by Gil Inoue

I firmly believe that as a writer, it’s always in my best interest to read as much as possible. I try my best to keep up with what’s going on in the literary world through social media and much of it has to do with other writers.

Zadie Smith has been a name I’ve heard of for quite some time with her most recent novel, White Teeth, a huge hit. With her most recent fiction in The New Yorker, I’ve found the chance to finally read her and I can definitely say that I’ve become a recent fan.

-Spoiler Alert-

In this story, chaos has engulfed an unnamed country in which its’ Minister of the Interior features as the main protagonist. Accompanied by his chauffeur, the Minister embarks on a journey through the valley witnessing firsthand the crisis he has avoided for “three days” in which a storm is cited as the cause of the devastation:

“By the time they reached the valley, however, any hope one had that the television exaggerated was destroyed. The water had retreated, leaving behind a shredded world of plastic, timber, and wire”.

As they encounter people along the way, the Minister’s character is slowly revealed.

“We can’t get through this.”

“We are not going to get through,” the Minister corrected. “We’re going to stop. There are three crates of water in the trunk.”

…There were things that had mattered before the storm and things that mattered now, and the Minister fully understood that he belonged to the former category.

The story ultimately places three characters under a distressing dilemma where “one never really kn[o]w[s] a person until one [i]s caught in a situation of extremity with that person”.

The student of history vs. The student of human nature

The Marlboro Man ends up being the third character that sets the story rolling to its’ climax. Due to the storm, the prison collapses “flat as a pancake!” and prisoners are liberated as if “the Lord himself” did it. An escaped convict, the Marlboro Man holds the Minister and his chauffeur hostage. As the Minister confronts the Marlboro Man, he compares him to the devil as a young man, “a good student, very attentive, eager to get on, who nevertheless always learned the wrong lesson”. Their history is revealed as one where they both took part of a rebellion, a revolution, a commitment “to the future of their nation [in which they were] willing to risk anything for it”. The story ends without any deaths however, as the Marlboro Man escapes and the Minister lets him leave.

He felt as if he were releasing the spirit of chaos into the world. But wasn’t it already here?

MUST READ for sure!!