If a poem is analyzed in a novel, the underlying meaning of poetological self-referentiality is to be expected.

In her new book, Ali Smith has her first-person narrator Sandy interpret a poem by the American poet EE Cummings.

Smith guides her audience through the classic avant-gardist's poem with ease and wit.

It's not worth hating poetry - "Waste of a strong emotion" -;

Rather, one should get involved with the words: “Just look at the words.

They'll tell you what they mean.

Because that's what words do.



They mean.” Smith's new novel has been available in English since April last year: “Companion Piece”.

Luchterhand announces the German translation by Silvia Moravetz for May 24 under the title "Companions".

A literal translation is not easy because, like so much in this novel, the title is ambiguous.

On the one hand, "Companion Piece" is to be understood as a counterpart to Smith's season cycle, which was published between 2016 and 2020, a new something that hangs next to its predecessors as a work of art, so to speak.

On the other hand, the novel itself wants to be an accompaniment, a “companion piece”.

Even the four novels "Spring", "Summer", "Autumn" and "Winter" were designed as a kind of ongoing commentary on current events.

Smith touches on the refugee crisis, domestic tensions in Britain, social inequality and the impact of climate change in the new novel.

Nevertheless, “Companion Piece” is not a thesis novel.

Smith is as interested in politics as he is, perhaps even primarily, in language, literature and art.

A snapshot of the pandemic

The Seasons Quartet was already full of language games and intertextual references such as references to works of other arts, ranging from Shakespeare and Rilke to the pop artist Pauline Boty and the sculptor Barbara Hepworth.

Companion Piece continues this trend.

The novel weaves a dense web of allusions and quotations from antiquity and English literary history, setting a hopeful counterpoint to the current trend towards social alienation and diffusion.

As a snapshot of the Covid-19 pandemic, the book manages to capture the shifts in perception of time that many of us have been experiencing, particularly during lockdown.

Thus, while reading, forms of being with one another become present again.

Because that's what "Companion Piece" is about: bridges between past and present,

Sandy, in her mid-fifties, is an artist.

She makes paintings out of poems.

Horace's ut-pictura-poesis-principle is taken literally – words create an image in the mind.

Smith invites you to reflect on the possibilities of art forms.

Radio, television, not least animals (like the father's dog, which the narrator takes care of) can be companions, but for Sandy the constant companions are above all books.

Ali Smith shines through here, who – like her protagonist – is in her late fifties, a lesbian and a vehement campaigner for literature and its power in her home country Great Britain.

The perspective of the first-person narrator, who led a withdrawn life even before the pandemic, is juxtaposed with the experiences of a pair of twins in their early twenties.