In her novel Spring (2019), the third instalment in her seasonal quartet, the Scottish author, Ali Smith weaves Beethoven into the narrative as just one strand in a richly intertextual fabric that she then positions around the critical edges of the global refugee crisis. These novels, which are recognized as belonging to “BrexLit,” provide a critical, artistic, and ethical meditation on our time and our treatment of refugees. They forward the argument of how fiction and the novel today can help us make sense of the human condition. The very act of engaging with the Beethoven song “An die Hoffnung” presented in Spring allows us to consider anew the question of humanity as it relates to Beethoven’s music, and, perhaps more importantly, the degree to which Beethoven’s music can put us in touch with our own humanity. The approach to Beethoven in this article is set against the backdrop of a critique of the dominant ideologies that have been associated with his music since his lifetime, as espoused in the literary novel as just one of many intellectual and literary outlets. I propose that there is a resonance to be found in our engagement with Beethoven in Ali Smith’s Spring in that, by conflating a poem, a song, and a character, she seems to make us more alert, and more alive to the ethical and moral choices put before us in this book.


[1] In her novel Summer, the fourth instalment in her seasonal quartet, the Scottish author, Ali Smith (* 1962), asks the perennial question of whether the artist should portray their own age.[1] Each of the four novels in this quartet heavily deploys intertextuality. All four are in conversation with a Shakespeare play, each of the books begins with a witty interchange with Charles Dickens. Throughout, the seasonal quartet is infused alternately with allusions to and engagements with Sandro Botticelli, Lewis Carroll, Katherine Mansfield, Rainer Maria Rilke, and Aldous Huxley, amongst others. A maternal spirit presides over each book through the presence of a woman artist, the art works of whom are politically engaged in varying ways. These include Pauline Boty (Autumn), a trailblazer in art and thought whose pop art on female sexuality and free-spirited criticism of the “man’s world” in which she lived was deemed to be scandalous; Barbara Hepworth (Winter) whose sculptures turn stone into art with political comment, inviting the observer to walk around the sculpture, to contemplate it from different sides and thereby consider matters from different perspectives; Tacita Dean (Spring) whose imposing mountainous landscapes depict nature at its most awesome, and compel the viewer to consider their own temporal and geographical (in)significance; and Lorenza Mazzeti (Summer), an Italian film-maker and author whose work focuses on themes of urban isolation, and authentic depictions of the quotidian. The concentration on a multiplicity of identities within a single British identity in the seasonal quartet highlights what risks being lost by focusing on a narrow sense of nationalism. Borders play a significant role in these books, and these borders themselves assume a multiplicity of identities. National borders are recognized as a mechanism and metaphor for exclusion for an increasingly not very United Kingdom, just as the borders that open onto Irish and Scottish culture are recognized as a mechanism and metaphor for inclusion, widening out from Britain, and embracing Europe and the promise that European identity entails.

As it looks outward from Britain and from the confines of British nationalism, the seasonal quartet has a political urgency with one of its enduring themes being Britain’s inhumanity toward the victims of the global refugee crisis. The quartet also illuminates, through the prism of Brexit, crucial contemporary issues of climate change, mental health, female allyship, and the threats posed by social media and political manipulation.[2] As Erica Wagner notes, Ali Smith understands division, and her characters are who they are: original, curious, conflicted, damaged, hopeful.[3] Underpinning this seasonal quartet (and much of Ali Smith’s output) is an uncompromising faith in art and a fervent belief in the capacity of the imagination. These novels forward the argument of how fiction and the novel today can help us make sense of the human condition.

The third novel in the series, Spring, does so explicitly with recourse to the music of Beethoven. Before exploring how, I will provide a brief synopsis of the novel for those who are not familiar with it. The story revolves around four main characters, the first an aging TV and film producer, Richard Lease, whose best friend and long-time collaborator, Patricia (Paddy), is undergoing the late stages of treatment for terminal cancer, an illness which takes her life early in the book. In mourning this loss, he takes a trip to Scotland in order to relive some of their times together. Overcome by grief upon his arrival, he attempts (unsuccessfully) to take his own life. On the ensuing journey through Scotland, he carries on conversations in his head, both with himself, as well as imaginary exchanges with his estranged daughter. Real characters also share the journey. Brittany (Brit) Hall is a guard at an immigration detention center who has become numb to her own life and to the lives of the immigrants in her charge. Her unhappiness, cynicism, and bitterness can be understood to reflect the state of her nation at the time of the Brexit referendum. She meets a young girl called Florence Smith (a character who responds to Marina in Shakespeare’s play Pericles of Tyre), a wide-eyed idealist who is full of innocent, if also revolutionary, spirit, who can freely enter forbidden places, and who is a chronicler of our times. Brit and Florence strike up the most unlikely friendship, coming into improbably close contact with Richard Lease. The fourth main character is Alda Lyons, a librarian turned activist who assists detained immigrants at great personal risk. The events that surround the intersection of these four lives in the highlands of Scotland form the substance of the novel. Beneath this simple narrative surface is a deep and profound interrogation of the potential for what can happen to human life when you prioritize humanity over politics. This question is refracted through the political, social, and economic crises of Britain at the time of the Brexit referendum. As the characters continue to move between England, Ireland, and Scotland, the book improvises on the existential questions surrounding Brexit and its potential ramifications on a human level, not least in relation to issues of belonging as they pertain to the global refugee crisis.

Built around an allusion to Beethoven’s song “An die Hoffnung” (Ode to Hope), Smith weaves Beethoven into the narrative of Spring as just one strand in a richly intertextual fabric that she then positions around the critical edges of the global refugee crisis.[4] This is not done by attempting to render music in the terms of discourse, a mode of musicological writing to which Julian Johnson reacts when he makes a compelling case for “a more musical musicology.”[5] Nor does Smith’s novel attempt to create “equivalences between the arts: that is, the idea that literature and music (and visual art) may translate one another.”[6] Instead, through the narrative of her fiction, Ali Smith urges that we pay attention to and engage with art on its own terms. Beethoven’s music is invoked in Spring, but never translated.

[2] A novelist drawing on Beethoven is nothing new. Most ideologies and mythologies that have grown up around that composer since the nineteenth century find a home in literary fiction. But a novelist drawing on Beethoven in the way that Ali Smith does is something new and something that will perhaps be more typical of the twenty-first century than it was of the nineteenth and twentieth.[7] Smith’s unusually sensitive allusion to Beethoven does not rely on the tropes of heroism or genius.[8] Equally, she is not tracing any formal correspondence between Beethoven’s music and Spring; the novel is not structured “like” a given Beethoven piece.[9] Spring does not invoke the Beethovenian (and masculine) sublime that we can trace from the writings of E. T. A. Hoffmann to the use of Beethoven’s music in the film Die Hard (1988). She is not preoccupied with the frowning, furrowed brow of Beethoven with which Katherine Mansfield was concerned both in private correspondence and in the short story “The Wind Blows” (1920).[10] The tendency to adapt a tripartite view of Beethoven’s life and works plays no part in Smith’s novel, nor is she concerned with its accordant aesthetic taxonomy which sees the composer progress from tradition, to individualism, to transcendence. Her allusion to Beethoven does not owe its “origins more to Beethoven’s commentators than to Beethoven himself,” to borrow the words of Milan Kundera.[11] In fact, Smith seems to be completely unconcerned with “the Beethoven legend,” or with what Ernest Newman lamented in 1927 as “the traditional business of polishing up this legend and eliminating from it everything that did not harmonize with it.”[12]

Instead, Smith uses Beethoven in what might be called a self-consciously naïve way as a means to transgress the newly imposed boundary between Britain and the European Union (the Brexit vote having made that a certainty in 2016, but one that would not become a reality until 2021, two years after the publication of Spring), and to problematize the political realities of the age of Brexit and Trump. To the degree that Smith’s book addresses a rupture in international relations between Germany (which, by turns, also stands as a proxy for Europe as a whole) and England, it finds an antecedent in Rebecca West’s The Return of the Soldier of 1918, but the mode of engagement is entirely different.[13] The very act of engaging with the Beethoven song presented in Spring brings with it an innocence, devoid of technical, formal, or score-based engagement with the music. Rather, Smith exploits the possibilities inherent in Beethoven’s song and Tiedge’s poem, and, by bringing them into intertextual resonance with the framework of Shakespeare’s Pericles of Tyre, shapes the narrative of the novel in relation to the global refugee crisis. The manner of this allusion allows us to consider anew the question of humanity as it relates to Beethoven’s music, and, perhaps more importantly, the degree to which Beethoven’s music can put us in touch with our own humanity.[14] There is a resonance to be found in this engagement, moreover, in that it seems to make us more alert, and more alive to the ethical and moral choices put before us in this book.

Part 1: Framing Hope

Beethoven is introduced to the novel Spring by way of the character Patricia Heal (or Paddy, as she is referred to), an Irish-born screenwriter of some brilliance who, along with her long-time collaborator and soulmate Richard Lease, made a groundbreaking TV drama in 1972 about the far-reaching cost of the holocaust called “Andy Hoffnung.” The passage reads:

Andy Hoffnung: Paddy’d sat next to a man at a Beethoven concert at the Wigmore Hall some time in the late 1960s. An die Hoffnung, he said, and smiled at her. She’d thought it was his name, and told him hers, then she’d seen in the programme it was the title of one of the songs.

They’d gone out to dinner after. (They probably slept together.) He’d told her almost nothing about himself. Paddy, sharp as an arrowhead, had gathered a great deal. He was half German, half English. He’d been shafted by the worst of both. He’d lost a lot at the hands of both family, friends, home, all gone, and so on. And yet the most hopeful man I’ve ever met, she said at the time. I don’t mean naively. I mean profoundly.[15]

Whereas music features pervasively in the fictional output of Ali Smith, it is usually jazz or popular music, with Spring also invoking Florence & the Machine’s 2018 album High as Hope. It seems most unlikely for Beethoven to find a place in one of her novels.[16] Before 2010, Ali Smith thought that classical music was not for her. Around that time, she made the decision to listen to a piece of Beethoven every day for a month.[17] She was astonished at her own response to this music, which she deemed to be

as modernist as Frank Gehry architecture, as timeless as things dug up in Greece from millennia ago, as uncompromising as history, as inventive and colourful as Picasso and Hockney.[18]

It is invigorating to hear Smith’s thoughts on Beethoven as a great literary figure who first encountered his music in a serious capacity when she was in her late 40s. Her Beethoven journey, she says, has

never not been enlightening, exciting, and a fusion of pleasure and meditation—your mind opens and dimensionalises as you listen, whatever it is, it’ll be layered with an understanding of social negotiation, and of the heft, the shadow and the forward push of time.[19]

She began at Opus 1 and listened to those Trios every day for a month, before turning to Opus 2 and so on. Calculating from when she began this journey in 2010, she would have happened upon Beethoven’s first setting of “An die Hoffnung,” op. 32 at some point early in 2013. It is possible that this effortlessly simple strophic setting, with its E flat major optimism, rendered darker by touches of minor and a pervasive sighing figure, is the song Smith had in mind when she placed the character Andy Hoffnung at the center of her exploration of hope.[20] More likely, however, is that it was Beethoven’s later 1815 setting of this same poem addressed to hope by Christoph August Tiedge (1752–1841). As op. 94, this would have found its way on to her Beethoven turntable, so to speak, late in 2017.

[3] The chronology is important. The first novel in the seasonal quartet, Autumn, was published on October 20, 2016, and the second, Winter, was published on November 2, 2017, both now considered part of the genre of BrexLit. With the tight six-week turnaround from delivery of manuscript to publication required of Hamish Hamilton in order for this series of novels to be viable, Smith would have delivered the manuscript for Winter in late September 2017. Immediately thereafter it seems likely that she turned her attention to the next novel in the series, Spring. During the time that she wrote these first three books of the quartet, therefore, the fraught political landscape in the UK was still reeling from the murder of the MP Jo Cox on June 16, 2016, and, shortly after that, the result of the Brexit referendum on June 24. That referendum was recognized in 2016 as having been based on racist rhetoric, and was understood to have intensified racialized divisions across the UK.[21] On the far side of the Atlantic, the US general election led to the inauguration of Donald Trump in January 2017. All of this is woven into the fabric of Autumn and Winter, yet it continues to inform the narrative of Spring which can be understood as an interrogation, in fictional form, of how xenophobia is used to justify the unthinkably inhumane.[22]

Highlights of the refugee crisis, if we may call them that, over the last decade include Theresa May’s “Hostile Environment Policy” of 2012, which resorted to methods such as “go home” vans telling illegal immigrants to leave the country, and her dismissive references in 2016 to cosmopolitanism: “if you believe you are a citizen of the world, you are a citizen of nowhere.”[23]

Figure 1: A billboard in Southall, West London—one of the mobile billboards carrying a warning of “Go Home or Face Arrest” that were driving through certain boroughs of London in 2013 as part of a UK Home Office initiative to reduce illegal immigration. Photograph by Rick Findler, July 24, 2013; reproduced with the permission of the photographer.

The language of “swarms” of “migrants” that Nigel Farage adopted in his Brexit canvassing in July 2015 came just two months before the shocking images of the three-year-old Syrian boy Alan Kurdi washed up on a beach near the Turkish resort of Bodrum.[24] Nigel Farage’s 2016 “Breaking Point: The EU has failed us all” campaign echoed, if not emulated, Theresa May’s van strategy.

Figure 2: Nigel Farage unveils and discusses UKIP’s new poster “Breaking Point” highlighting concerns about immigration before the Brexit vote in June 2016. Photograph by Mark Thomas, Alamy Stock Photo.

Trump’s administrative actions in 2017 on immigration and refugee status included cutting federal funding for sanctuary cities which refuse to comply with immigration enforcement measures; suspending the refugee Admissions Program; and the three executive actions collectively known as the “Trump travel ban,” issued on holocaust memorial day in 2017 (January, 27).[25] These placed stringent restrictions on those “bad dudes,”[26] citizens of Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen from travelling to the US; that executive order was then amended to remove Iraq from the list; only to add restrictions on Chad, North Korea, and Venezuela, just as Sudan was removed. Slightly later, from April to June 2018 the Trump Administration family separation policy led to children being separated from their parents and put in cages.

This forms the landscape upon which Spring was drawn, and against which Ali Smith would have heard Beethoven’s second setting of “An die Hoffnung” for the first time and then listened to it every day for a month:

Example 1: L. v. Beethoven, “An die Hoffnung,” Op. 94, mm. 1–7;
Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau and Hartmut Höll
℗ 1984 Parlophone Records Limited. A Warner Music Group Company; by courtesy of WARNER MUSIC Group Germany Holding GmbH. A Warner Music Group Company

This dramatic, deeply pensive, through-composed song opens with a searching recitative, with the performance direction poco sostenuto which Beethoven used for works that were serious and foreboding between about 1808 and 1815.[27] The prefatory gesture of the recitative was absent from Beethoven’s op. 32 setting, both in terms of this first stanza of Tiedge’s poem[28] and the expressive, decidedly operatic inflection that gives rise to its three entreaties:

  • Whether there be a God?
  • Whether he will one day fulfil those promises which human longing tearfully imagines?
  • Whether this enigmatic Being will reveal himself, at some last judgement?

These entreaties, heard in the dark and suspenseful key of B flat minor, arrest the melodic flow of the piano on each occasion.[29] As the music searches for a way out of the depths of this highly chromatic B flat minor, we emerge into an Allegro in D major. Despite seeming to be triumphant in itself, this is attenuated by the shadow of the forthcoming G major, giving voice to the assertion that “Man must hope. His not to question!”

Christoph August Tiedge, “An die Hoffnung”[30]


[4] A Larghetto piano interlude allows the poet, speaking in the third person as “the sufferer” to address hope in the first person. Registral shifts are a pronounced characteristic of this song: in this second stanza, in addition to the affective sweeping octaves, the repeated appeals to hope seem to soar heavenward, just as descriptions of suffering witness the voice plumb the depths of despair. In the midst of this G major stanza, the repeated supplication to hope, to “let the patient sufferer sense that high above / An angel keeps record of his tears!” (“Laß, durch dich empor gehoben, / Den Dulder ahnen, daß dort oben / Ein Engel seine Tränen zählt”) intensifies on each occasion, with the interval of the melisma widening from a sixth over a dominant, to a seventh over a dominant seventh, before being filled in with lamenting, falling semitones on the way to a cadential sigh. As Amanda Glauert suggests, “the song’s vocal line almost breaks under such extremes”:[31]

GrimesSmithBeethovenEx2a    GrimesSmithBeethovenEx2b

Example 2: L. v. Beethoven, “An die Hoffnung,” Op. 94, mm. 27–47;
Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau and Hartmut Höll
℗ 1984 Parlophone Records Limited. A Warner Music Group Company; by courtesy of WARNER MUSIC Group Germany Holding GmbH. A Warner Music Group Company

With each stanza in this Lied comes a change of key, character, and texture. Lewis Lockwood ventures that this is so that “each element of the poem can receive its own more sensitive musical sculpting.”[32] This is unusual for a Lied, that most intimate of art forms, one that in this instance reaches beyond itself in terms of its operatic ambition. In keeping with the grand scale of opera, this song, as Charles Osbourne observes, “sounds less like a private reflection than a public utterance.”[33] It seems entirely apt to the socially conscious subject matter of Spring, a book that takes shelter, as Ali Smith evocatively describes it, under Shakespeare’s late play Pericles of Tyre. That play of migration and family separation is concerned with good and bad governance, issues that come together in Spring and find one outlet in German music and poetry in the guise of Andy Hoffnung. This prompts the question of why contemporary German politics might have been on Ali Smith’s mind at this time.

In 2015, Angela Merkel opened Germany’s borders to millions of migrants, employing the now famous phrase “Wir schaffen das” (“We will handle this”).[34] Between 2015 and 2016, 1,750,000 refugees entered Germany via what became known as the Balkan route from Syria, North Africa, Iraq, and Afghanistan.[35] EU member states were officially responsible for these refugees under the EU’s Dublin Regulation, which the novelist Colm Tóibín has called out for censure, at the same time critiquing Ireland’s role in the refugee crisis:

Refugees and asylum seekers can only have their cases heard in the country where they first applied for asylum. No other country can deal with their case. Ostensibly, the Dublin regulation was a way to stop asylum-seeking shopping for the softest country or the most affluent. But, in fact, it was a way for many countries to wash their hands of this refugee problem, or attempt to do so.[36]

Merkel’s government responded to the Dublin Regulation by allowing people to cross the border first and have their asylum claims checked later. Political and public opinions on this matter were as conflicted then as they are now. Many have interpreted Merkel’s having made room for the wretched of the earth in this way as forging an inverted link with Germany’s past. Donald Trump called the opening of Germany’s borders “a catastrophic mistake.”[37] Nigel Farage told Fox News that it was “the worst decision a European leader has made in modern times.”[38] Pushing back against Merkel’s open border, Germany’s Die Linke party launched Aufstehen (Get Up), “a political movement that combined left-wing economic policy with exclusionary social protections.”[39] The far right entered the German parliament in 2017 for the first time since 1945 in the form of the Alternative für Deutschland party. As they called for Germany’s borders to be closed, they also demanded an end to Germany’s preoccupation with public memory. Here, as elsewhere in the world, there was an attempt for “memory and borders [to be] shut down [together].”[40]

In Autumn, and later in Summer where strands of all the novels in the seasonal quartet are brought together, Smith draws a connection between “the UK’s German internment camps” during World War II and “the current immigrant detention centers peppered throughout the UK,” both concerned with the treatment of enemy aliens, and signaling, as Natasha Hakimi Zapata perceptively puts it, that “Britain’s perennial refusal to grapple with its past has set the nation on a dizzying path of tragic repetition.”[41] In Spring, the allusion to Germany’s past through the prism of hope in “An die Hoffnung” approaches the matter of a country’s capacity to confront its past, and its future, and positions that matter in relation to borders. The third stanza of Tiedge’s poem is the site of memory and recollection as the sufferer, still in the third person, continues to address hope in the first. Bare, descending octaves illustrate the imagery of buried urns: the ornate vase, a vessel in which humanity gathered items to carry with them, that proud symbol of elegant beauty that holds our earthly remains, or that symbol of death. As the voice sustains a low C sharp, we reach one the most profound depths of “An die Hoffnung”:

Example 3: L. v. Beethoven, “An die Hoffnung,” Op. 94, mm. 47–57;
Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau and Hartmut Höll
℗ 1984 Parlophone Records Limited. A Warner Music Group Company; by courtesy of WARNER MUSIC Group Germany Holding GmbH. A Warner Music Group Company

Tiedge’s poem comes from the first “canto” of his “lyric-didactic poem” called Urania: Über Gott, Unsterblichkeit, und Freiheit (Urania: On God, Immortality, and Freedom).[42] This enjoyed great popularity in the first half of the nineteenth century. As Paul Reid notes:

This poem within a poem appears in the first canto, subtitled “Klagen des Zweiflers” [Lamentations of the doubter] at a point where the poet, acting as devil’s advocate, questions the very existence of God. The wonders of nature suggest an orderly and benevolent world ruler, but the human world, where evil so often triumphs over good, suggests otherwise.[43]

Figure 3: Carl August Tiedge, Urania: Über Gott, Unsterblichkeit, und Freiheit
(Urania: On God, Immortality, and Freedom),
Reutlingen: Fleischhauer and Bohm, 1816

These weighty moral questions are given voice in Ali Smith’s Spring as, for instance, when the invisible is made visible with the specter of God being conjured up in a chilling collage of racist social media vitriol, the kind targeted at immigrants on a regular basis that remains otherwise unseen by the population at large:

God Hates You nex time you are out on a dark night we will get you and you children and you should be scared you immigrant shit you need hate maile to Sort you out you deserve hate.[44]

[5] Smith’s twenty-first century engagement with Tiedge is a worthy counterpart to Beethoven’s song, whose setting of the last stanza of Tiedge’s poem begins in D minor, the key of such weighty and consequential works in the German tradition as Mozart’s Requiem and Don Giovanni. It is also the key of Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony, a work that numerous commentators have considered to rotate in the same expressive orbit as “An die Hoffnung,” not only because the opening recitative seems to emerge out of a void, but also because the poetry that is set on each occasion is alternately an Ode to Joy (“An die Freude”) and an Ode to Hope (“An die Hoffnung”). The imagery in Tiedge’s closing stanza witnesses the sufferer in his final days look up in a defiant gesture to rail against fate. There is then one final plea to hope that the sufferer might be permitted “to behold behind this earthly dream / The golden glow at the cloud’s fringe, / From a sun close at hand!” (“Dann laß’ ihn um den Rand des Erdentraumes / Das Leuchten eines Wolkensaumes / Von einer nahen Sonne seh’n!”) This is not a plea for heavenly redemption, nor is it a plea for release from earthly suffering. This is merely a plea that as the sufferer takes leave of this world, they might be permitted one last glance of its beauty.

Figure 4: Tacita Dean, When first I raised the tempest, 2016. Glenstone Museum, Potomac, Maryland; reproduced with the kind permission of the artist.

Tiedge’s poem ends here. Beethoven’s setting, however, winds back to G major and a return of the second stanza in which the sufferer had dared to ask hope that an angel might keep record of his tears. This return to the second stanza speaks to an inability to escape from appealing to hope. The song ends with a short postlude, treated by Beethoven as an eminently refined closing gesture. Although the final words, “O Hoffnung,” come from the second stanza, the melodic motif to which they are attached belongs to the start of the song, that is, the first stanza that accommodated the searching recitative in which we first learnt of the sufferer’s existential angst. Paul Reid characterizes this opening as containing “a full compendium of rhetorical devices illustrative of religious doubt and human despair.” Its chromatically descending bass line is redolent of the ancient topos of lament; “the diabolic triton occurs continually as diminished fifth and augmented fourth, and the chord of the diminished seventh avoids harmonic certainty.”[45]

Example 4: L. v. Beethoven, “An die Hoffnung,” op. 94, mm. 1–7 and m. 89

By the end of the song, the motif to which we hear the words “O Hoffnung” is subtly changed, but the more sanguine perfect fifth of bar 89 seems inadequate to the task of transforming the expressive effect of the music at the outset on the question of “whether there be a God?”—that inquiry having ended with a diminished fifth in bar 7. The ending, then, brings us back to the beginning, the song itself now confronting both its own past and its future, for in returning to the first verse we once again encounter the singular mention of judgment in this song, and the prospect that it holds for future events. This judgment, moreover, pertains not to the sufferer, but instead to a God (one who may or may not exist).

Part 2: Reflections on Hope

In her exploration of “Mercy” in the Oxford Handbook of Western Music and Philosophy, Martha Nussbaum draws a helpfully succinct distinction between mercy and compassion, one that she then applies to a series of operas by Mozart:

Mercy is a mental inclination but not necessarily an emotion; compassion is an emotional reaction to the plight of another person. Mercy recognizes that the person is at fault: it belongs, so to speak, at the penalty phase of a trial, after conviction. Compassion, by contrast, need have nothing at all to do with fault: indeed, as typically understood, it recognizes a large role for uncontrolled events in getting into the bad situation that inspires the painful emotion. And it typically ascribes to these uncontrolled events considerable importance for human flourishing.[46]

Nussbaum’s distinction is illuminating for Beethoven’s “An die Hoffnung,” and the darkness that falls over its G major ending. I am not convinced of the claim Nussbaum makes that a musical setting has the capacity to express mercy or compassion, even though I admire many of the fine nuances of her argument. Instead, I suggest, mercy and compassion are the property of the perceiving subject, and it is the manner in which the poem is treated in this song that enhances the listener’s capacity for such perception. Rather than allowing the listener to move on from the three entreaties articulated at the outset of the song, the simple gesture of conflating a god-like figure with the personification of hope invites the listener to revisit these matters, now fully informed of the plight of the sufferer. To whom, the song seems to ask, do the concepts of mercy and compassion apply in the scenario of this poem, and for whom is this judgement intended. As the song veers between elation and despair, and between hope and hopelessness, it is worth recalling the character Paddy’s description of Andy Hoffnung: “I realized, talking with him, that true hope’s actually a matter of the absence of hope.”[47]

[6] The edification to be found in Ali Smith’s Spring may not require an understanding of the musical nuances observed throughout this article. It is possible that many readers would not scratch the surface of the conflation of Andy Hoffnung with “An die Hoffnung,” and still have a full appreciation of the diverse choices of ethical and moral conduct that are presented to the reader in Spring. It does not detract from the literary ingenuity or the playful virtuosity of Ali Smith having “the song name become the man’s name,” to note that the personification of hope is already present in Tiedge’s poem, in which the poet consistently addresses hope in the first person, as befits the genre of the ode.[48] It might be the case that our appreciation of the intertextuality of Spring is enhanced by an understanding of this Beethoven song, and here I hasten to add that what I offer is merely my own subjective response to the song and lays no claim to a definitive reading. What is certain, however, is that for those with an open-eared curiosity amongst the readers of Ali Smith’s Spring, the manner in which she treats “Andy Hoffnung” in the book, conflating a poem, a song, and a character, has the capacity to increase our empathy. This, moreover, is not abstract empathy, detached from a tangible object. As suggested at the outset of this article, Smith’s unusually sensitive allusion to Beethoven does not rely on the tropes of heroism or genius. Beethoven, as he appears in Spring is no “lifter of metaphysical weights.”[49] Instead, with Smith’s quintessentially human compassion for the plight of seemingly unremarkable individuals,[50] she simply allows the complex humanity inherent in Beethoven’s setting of Tiedge’s poem to speak to the global refugee crisis.

Ali Smith is the patron of the Refugee Tales where volunteers befriend and support immigration detainees and then tell their tales, often in collaboration with the detainees.[51]

Figure 5: Refugee Tales, volumes I–IV, edited by David Herd and Anna Pincus, cover design by David Eckersall; by courtesy of Comma Press.

In the words of the poet David Herd, the Refugee Tales “reject the terms of a debate that criminalizes human movement” and a system that allows refugees to be “picked up and detained routinely and arbitrarily.”[52] Modelled on the pilgrim stories in Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales, and operating on the principle that solidarity should begin with reading, authors from Patience Agbabi to Helen Macdonald and Bernardine Evaristo have contributed to this project. Spring is not part of the Refugee Tales and yet it clearly has an anchor in that initiative, with Ali Smith having interviewed detainees (or deets, as they are called in the book) in the course of researching and writing the book. She is concerned with how immigration removal centers reduce the humanity both of the people detained and those who work therein, often by making those people invisible, “disappearing people from a system that has already disappeared them.”[53] “The Detainee’s Tale” as told to Ali Smith by a refugee as part of the Refugee Tales, focuses “on the dehumanizing nature of the detainment system, which forces detainees to live in rooms with barred windows, behind multiple locked doors, and under constant lighting and to suffer constant invasions of privacy from security officers who check on them every fifteen minutes.”[54] Within the framework of Spring, Smith charts the corrosive effect that these “technically not prisons” have on the human spirit.

The material we have encountered up to this point from Spring is positioned around borders, and the divisions they impose. In counterpoint with this, and fueling the hopeless hope of this book, is the wide-eyed optimism of the character Florence Smith in Spring, a child with benevolent intelligence:

What if, the girl says. Instead of saying, this border divides these places. We said, this border unites these places. This border holds together these two really interesting different places. What if we declared border crossings places where, listen, when you crossed them, you yourself became doubly possible.[55]

It is in this spirit of enhanced possibility that Smith draws together disparate voices in a single European tradition in Spring, and positions Beethoven in conversation with Dickens, Tiedge, Shakespeare, Picasso, and Tacita Dean, with the spirit of Patricia Heal, or Paddy presiding over all of them. This drawing together of figures from across Europe, including the United Kingdom, can be understood as a symbolic transgression of the borders that would be erected around the UK with the implementation of Brexit on January 1, 2021. This same European tradition animates the ghosts in Ali Smith’s machine, that is, Theodor W. Adorno, Walter Benjamin, and Ernst Bloch vying against one another to determine who has the greater purchase on the concept of hope.

The ambivalent treatment of the concept of hope in Spring is bound up with a musical naivety that plays a pivotal role in Smith’s treatment of Beethoven. The very fact of the allusion to Beethoven places this book amongst a British literary tradition reaching back a century. Surveying pervasive allusions and references to Beethoven in the writings of Anglo-American modernists, Nathan Waddell takes note of the “cultural and rhetorical conditions which have made it possible to make intelligible passing references to Beethoven at this and other points in history.”[56] Authors of such books include Katherine Mansfield and Aldous Huxley (who feature prominently in Ali Smith’s seasonal quartet), as well as E. M. Forster and Virginia Woolf.[57] Perceptively, Waddell further notes that “in literary modernism a reference to Beethoven’s music is often less a reference to Beethoven’s music per se and more a reference to the conventionality of ‘Beethoven’ as a frame and concept through which to understand the mechanisms of cultural enthronement.”[58] Such references tend to betray the author’s intimate understanding of the music of Beethoven by playing on technical facets of the music. In Howards End, for example, E. M. Forster demonstrates how “aesthetic appreciation is itself a product of social and financial privilege.”[59]

[7] A century later, Smith comes at Beethoven from rather a different angle to these modernist authors, for she has no training in classical music, and therefore lacks the musical “privilege” of Forster and Woolf. Perhaps it is this lack of musical training that allows her to create a sense of enhanced possibility that reaches across socio-economic boundaries, recording the experience of a working-class teenager. Armed with nothing more than her own imagination, and in an age before a chorus of voices would tell her that that which Bourdieu refers to as “the most precious cultural gains of humanity” were the preserve of the elite,[60] a teenager could follow her passion:

When I was fifteen, she wrote, and had seen your Andy Hoffnung on TV and loved it, I found the Beethoven song An die Hoffnung on a cassette. I listened to it. I even went to the library and looked up the German words and worked out what they meant with a German dictionary. Then I got the train through to Aberdeen, where they had copies of The Listener in the stacks, and I looked up what your friend Paddy said when they interviewed her about writing Andy Hoffnung, and why she’d called it that.

And I loved how she’d the song name become the man’s name. I loved how she made words that mean dedicated to hope into an actual person, how she gave the words a human shape.[61]

By framing Beethoven’s “An die Hoffnung” in the unassuming and disarming manner that we find it in Spring, with its “thrill of perilous border crossings,”[62] Ali Smith positions Beethoven’s music as a means through which we may access, if not enlarge, our own sense of humanity. This opens out onto a broader discourse in the work of Ali Smith concerning that which is ephemeral and that which is lasting. Reflecting on one last border, the meeting place between art and time, in her book Artful she ventures that “real art (as opposed to more transient art, which is real too, just for less time) will hold us at all our different ages like it held all the people before us and will hold all the people after us.”[63]


It is difficult to conceive of Beethoven and the concept of hope together without seeming to channel the early twentieth-century spirit of George Alexander Fischer who considered Beethoven’s music to encapsulate “an altruistic spirit” that “seeks to help humanity on an upward path.”[64] I do not wish to determine whether we may attribute any such moral virtue to Beethoven’s music, nor am I concerned with the question of whether Ali Smith channels an altruistic spirit. Rather I propose that the manner of her allusion to Beethoven in Spring makes us alert to the ethical and moral choices presented in the book. The art that inspires Ali Smith’s characters seems to widen their capacity for empathy, and insists that they take stock both of the beauty and cruelty present in all of nature, not least human nature. In her Goldsmiths Prize Lecture called “The Novel in the Age of Trump,” she confesses that the novels she likes best “are the ones that invite, or demand, that their reader take part in their making, be present in them, be creative in response to them, and in being part, be the opposite of excluded, be active, be alive to them and them in turn alive to the reader.”[65] For those of us who wish, in response to this, to have an “imaginative involvement” with Beethoven’s “An die Hoffnung,” perhaps this has the power to transform us, allowing us to re-humanize those who have been de-humanized, and thereby allowing us to hope for—if not to enact—a kinder, more benevolent, and more just world.



  1. Ali Smith, Autumn (London: Penguin, 2016); Winter (London: Penguin, 2017); Spring (London: Penguin, 2019); and Summer (London: Penguin, 2020).

  2. Ali Smith’s seasonal quartet has been viewed by a number of scholars through the lens of “BrexLit.” See, for instance, Harald Pittel, “Fiction in Dark Times: The Brexit Novel and Ali Smith,” Hard Times 101, no. 1 (2018): 58–67; Kristian Shaw, “BrexLit,” in Brexit and Literature: Critical and Cultural Responses, ed. Robert Eaglestone (London: Routledge, 2018), 15–30; John Masterson, “‘Don’t tell me this isn’t relevant all over again in its brand new same old way’: imagination, agitation, and raging against the machine in Ali Smith’s Spring,” Safundi 21, no. 3 (2020): 355–72.

  3. Erica Wagner, “Why Ali Smith is the National Novelist we Need,” New Statesman, April 3, 2019, accessed December 16, 2020.

  4. “An die Hoffnung” can be translated as “Ode to Hope” or as “Dedicated to Hope,” this play on words itself seeming to be exploited in the multifaceted richness of Ali Smith’s allusion to “An die Hoffnung”/Andy Hoffnung throughout the novel Spring, as we will see.

  5. Julian Johnson, “The Blasphemy of Talking Beethoven in 2020: Listening again to the Heiliger Dankgesang,” Keynote Lecture, Society for Musicology in Ireland Plenary Conference, October 2020, accessed December 16, 2020.

  6. Nathan Waddell, Moonlighting: Beethoven and Literary Modernism (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2019), 1.

  7. For helpful overviews of the reception of Beethoven the legend in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, see, for instance, H. C. Colles, “A Century of Beethoven,” Music and Letters 8, no. 2 (1927): 104–8; Ernest Newman, The Unconscious Beethoven: An Essay in Musical Psychology (London: Leonard Parsons, 1927); Arnold Schmitz, Das romantische Beethovenbild: Darstellung und Kritik (Berlin: Dümmler, 1927; repr., Darmstadt: Wissenschaftliche Buchgesellschaft, 1978); Egon Voss, “Das Beethoven-Bild der Beethoven-Belletristik: Zu einigen Beethoven-Erzählungen des 19. Jahrhunderts,” in Beethoven und die Nachwelt: Materialien zur Wirkungsgeschichte Beethovens, ed. Helmut Loos (Bonn: Beethoven-Haus, 1986), 80–89; Elisabeth Eleonore Bauer, Wie Beethoven auf den Sockel kam: Die Entstehung eines musikalischen Mythos (Stuttgart: J. B. Metzler, 1992); Tia DeNora, Beethoven and the Construction of Genius (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1995); Alessandra Comini, “The Visual Beethoven: Whence, Why, and Whither the Scowl?” in Beethoven and His World, ed. Scott Burnham and Michael P. Steinberg (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2000), 287–312; K. M. Knittel, “The Construction of Beethoven,” in The Cambridge History of Nineteenth-Century Music, ed. Jim Samson, The Cambridge History of Music (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2001), 118–50; Alessandra Comini, The Changing Image of Beethoven: A Study in Mythmaking, rev. ed. (Santa Fe, NM: Sunstone Press, 2008); Mark Evan Bonds, The Beethoven Syndrome: Hearing Music as Autobiography (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2020).

  8. Over the course of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, a number of dominant ideologies have been associated with Beethoven’s music. In The Beethoven Syndrome, Mark Evan Bonds charts changes in modes of listening to Beethoven from 1770 to the present, suggesting that the tendency for listeners to hear Beethoven’s music as “a form of sonic autobiography” began shortly after the composer’s death. He and Nathan Waddell (amongst others) point to the publication of the “Heiligenstadt Testament” in 1827 as a pivotal moment, and a central element in how listeners came to hear Beethoven as heroic. For Scott Burnham, the notion of Beethoven as hero stems from the spirit of the French Revolution and can be directly related to the tonal structures of a select repertoire of pieces that trace an ad astra plot archetype. Novels that draw upon this trope of heroism range from E. M. Forster’s Howards End to Anthony Burgess’s Napoleon Symphony (and, by way of subverting the trope of heroism, Burgess’s A Clockwork Orange). Broadening out from the novel, Waddell also takes note of “the generations of listeners who have been trained by cliché, by the endless proliferation of the dedication narrative, to hear the Eroica as a musical distillation of a particular revolutionary attitude.” The discourse on heroism in Beethoven’s music has also been actively resisted in scholarship over the past twenty years. Nicholas Mathew, for instance, brings Beethoven’s overtly heroic works such as the Eroica Symphony into conversation with occasional pieces such as Wellington’s Victory in order to focus on what he refers to as “the ruination of Beethoven’s style.” This has led J. P. E. Harper-Scott, The Event of Music History (Woodbridge UK: The Boydell Press, 2021), 124, to posit that “it is a banal truth that Wellington’s Sieg is the ideological underside and hermeneutic key to the ‘Eroica,’ but only in so far as it shows the context in which the ‘Eroica’ can ‘thing’.” (To ‘thing’ in Harper-Scott’s context is bound up with what Heidegger calls a Thing, that is, “to allow something to appear in its rich, contradictory fullness.”) Harper-Scott neatly unpacks the range of complex ideologies underpinning the scholarly discourse on “Beethoven and the Heroic Thing” suggesting that “the pan-European aftermath of the French Revolution” is “the principal history which is sedimented in the musical gestures of Beethoven’s heroic style.” See, respectively, Bonds, The Beethoven Syndrome, 1; Waddell, Moonlighting: Beethoven and Literary Modernism, 1; Scott Burnham, Beethoven Hero (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1995); Nicholas Mathew, “History under Erasure: Wellingtons Sieg,’ the Congress of Vienna, and the Ruination of Beethoven’s Style,” The Musical Quarterly 89, no. 1 (2006): 17–61; and Harper-Scott, The Event of Music History, here at 134. Other important texts concerning Beethoven and heroism include Maynard Solomon, Beethoven (London: Macmillan, 1977); and William Kinderman, Beethoven (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1995).

  9. For examples of novels that trace such formal correspondences with Beethoven’s music, see, for instance, Virginia Woolf, The Waves (1931), Reinhard Baumgart, Hausmusik: Ein deutsches Familienalbum (1966), and Michael Hollinger’s Opus (2007). For more on the subject of such formal correspondences, see Megan Ross, “The Critical and Artistic Reception of Beethoven’s String Quartet in C# Minor, Op. 131,” PhD diss., University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill (2019). I am grateful to an anonymous peer-review reader for suggesting the addition of these sources.

  10. Katherine Mansfield, The Collected Letters of Katherine Mansfield, vol. 1, 1903–1917, ed. Vincent O’Sullivan and Margaret Scott (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1984), 58 and 59, and Katherine Mansfield, “The Wind Blows” (1920), in Short Stories, ed. Angela Smith (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2002), 74 and 75, as cited in Waddell, Moonlighting: Beethoven and Literary Modernism, 8 and 10.

  11. Milan Kundera, The Unbearable Lightness of Being, trans. Michael Henry Heim (London: Faber and Faber, 1984), 32.

  12. Ernest Newman, The Unconscious Beethoven (London: Alfred A. Knopf, 1927; repr. 1970), 5.

  13. Rebecca West, The Return of the Soldier, ed. Bernard Schweizer and Charles Thorne (New York: Broadview Press, 2010).

  14. There is a vast literature that traces how Beethoven’s music has and can be understood in relation to humanity. A select list includes Daniel Chua, “Believing in Beethoven,” Music Analysis 19, no. 3 (2000): 409–21; Chua, Beethoven and Freedom (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2017); Jan Rohls, “Schiller, Beethoven und die Humanitätsreligion,” in Geist und Buchstabe: Interpretations- und Transformationsprozess innerhalb des Christentums; Festschrift für Günter Meckenstock zum 65. Geburtstag, ed. Pichael Pietsch and Dirk Schmid, Theologische Bibliothek Töpelmann 164 (Berlin: De Gruyter, 2013), 275–310; and Oliver Müller, “Beethovens Neunte als humanistisches Manifest: Beitrag zu einer musikalisch-philosophischen Physiognomie,” Philosophisches Jahrbuch 17, no. 1 (2010): 41–53.

  15. Smith, Spring, 59.

  16. I note, nonetheless, that Beethoven finds a central place in Ali Smith’s short story “Fidelio and Bess,” in The First Person and Other Stories (New York: Pantheon Books, 2008), 71–89.

  17. I am grateful to an anonymous peer-review reader for asking why I think it is that “Beethoven was the composer [Ali Smith] stuck with, rather than say Mozart, Bach, etc etc.” It would be inappropriate, if not futile, for me to speculate on why Ali Smith was consistently drawn to the music of Beethoven, and redundant to question why she was not instead drawn to the music of Mozart, or Bach or, to reach beyond the masculinist canon of Western art music, Lili Boulanger, Frank Zappa, or Lady Gaga. Perhaps she was. Who knows? We could ask her, but that would be to presume that she would/should tell us, or that she herself would know—or have any interest in articulating a public account of—the reasons for her musical tastes. Some readers might be tempted to think that her allusion to Beethoven is a consequence of his music being associated with politics. While I decline the invitation to endorse that view, I direct readers who are interested in the subject of Beethoven and politics to the following sources: Esteban Buch, Beethoven’s Ninth: A Political History, trans. Richard Miller (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2003); David B. Dennis, Beethoven in German Politics: 1870–1989 (New Haven MA: Yale University Press, 1996); Chua, Beethoven & Freedom; Stephen Rumph, Beethoven after Napoleon: Political Romanticism in the Late Works, California Studies in 19th-Century Music 14 (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2004); and Nicholas Mathew, Political Beethoven, New Perspectives in Music History and Criticism (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2013).

  18. Imogen Tilden, “‘The nearest to God we get’: Stars pick the Beethoven work they cherish,” The Guardian, July 16, 2020, accessed December 13, 2020.

  19. Ibid.

  20. For a study of tonal affect in the music of Beethoven, which goes beyond the scope of the current article, see Paul Martin Ellison, “The Key to Beethoven: Connecting Tonality and Meaning in his Music,” PhD diss., Cardiff University, 2010.

  21. Aditya Chakraborrty, “After a campaign scarred by bigotry, it’s become OK to be racist in Britain,” The Guardian, June 28, 2016, accessed December 16, 2020; and Kate Lyons, “Racist incidents feared to be linked to Brexit result,” The Guardian, June 26, 2016, accessed December 16, 2020.

  22. The publication date for Autumn is October 20, 2016, and for Winter is November 2, 2017.

  23. Theresa May, Keynote Speech to the Conservative Party Conference, October 5, 2016, in the aftermath of the UK’s Brexit vote, accessed December 16, 2020.

  24. Helena Smith, “Shocking images of drowned Syrian boy show tragic plight of refugees,” The Guardian, September 2, 2015. See also Rose Troup Buchanan, “Nigel Farage claims he would never use David Cameron’s language to describe migrants as a ‘swarm.’” The Independent, July 31, 2015; and Jessica Elgot, “How David Cameron’s language on refugees has provoked anger,” The Guardian, January 27, 2016. All accessed December 16, 2020.

  25. Executive Order 13769, January 27, 2017, accessed December 16, 2020. In Winter, 89–91, Ali Smith records how Sir Nicholas Soames actually barked at Tasmina Ahmed-Sheikh when she raised the matter of Britain’s lack of condemnation of Trump’s foreign policy on this occasion.

  26. Donald Trump’s language is reported and analyzed in Steven Poole, “Bad ‘dudes’ and dumb deals: Trump speak decoded,” The Guardian, February 7, 2017, accessed December 16, 2020.

  27. For example, the introduction to the Piano Trio, op. 70 no. 2; the melodrama movement of the Egmont music; and the “calm sea” section of Meeresstille und glückliche Fahrt, op. 112. See Lewis Lockwood, Beethoven’s Symphonies: An Artistic Vision (New York: Norton, 2015), 153–54.

  28. The first stanza was also missing from the first version of Tiedge’s poem which appeared in Halle in 1801. Beethoven used a later edition for the more extended setting in op. 94, probably the 1808 edition found in the composer’s effects after his death. See Paul Reid, The Beethoven Song Companion (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2010), 64.

  29. The stasis of this recitative reflects so much else in the book, from the degree to which Richard’s life—and emotions—seem to be frozen, to the indefinite terms of detention of the refugees held in immigration removal centers. I am grateful to Elizabeth Allen for a stimulating conversation on this subject.

  30. Reid, The Beethoven Song Companion, 61. The translation of the first stanza is my own. The German text is taken from The LiederNet Archive, accessed December 16, 2020.

  31. Amanda Glauert, Beethoven and the Lyric Impulse: Essays on Beethoven Song, Routledge Voice Studies (London: Routledge, 2020), 104.

  32. Lewis Lockwood, Beethoven: The Music and the Life (New York: Norton, 2005), 278.

  33. Charles Osbourne, The Concert Song Companion: A Guide to the Classical Repertoire (London: Gollancz, 1974), 23.

  34. Angela Merkel press conference, August 31, 2015. Relevant here, too, is the killing of the CDU politician Walter Lübcke on June 1, 2019.

  35. See, for instance, UNHCR Global Trends 2019, accessed December 16, 2020.

  36. Colm Tóibín, in “The turmoil of today’s world: leading writers respond to the refugee crisis,” The Guardian, September 12, 2015, accessed December 16, 2020.

  37. “Donald Trump attackiert Merkel und deutsche Autokonzerne,” Berliner Morgenpost, January 16, 2017; and Kate Connolly, “Merkel made catastrophic mistake over open door to refugees, says Trump,” The Guardian, January 15, 2017. All accessed December 16, 2020.

  38. Philip Oltermann, “How Angela Merkel’s great migrant gamble paid off,” The Observer, August 30, 2020, accessed December 16, 2020.

  39. David Adler, “The Temptation of Left Nationalism,” A Vision for Europe 2020: Nothing but an Alternative, ed. David Adler and Rosemary Bechler (London: eris.press, 2019), 263.

  40. Jacqueline Rose, “Agents of their own abuse: Jacqueline Rose writes about the treatment of migrant women,” London Review of Books 41, no. 19 (October 10, 2019), accessed December 16, 2020.

  41. Natasha Hakimi Zapata, “Antidotes to Brexit, COVID-19, and Other Afflictions in Ali Smith’s Seasonal Quartet,” LA Review of Books, November 30, 2020, accessed December 16, 2020.

  42. Christoph August Tiedge, Urania: Über Gott, Unsterblichkeit, und Freiheit; Ein lyrisch-didaktisches Gedicht in sechs Gesängen, rev. ed. (Reutlingen: Fleischhauer und Bohm, 1816).

  43. Reid, The Beethoven Song Companion, 62.

  44. Smith, Spring, 224. The opening pages of Spring provide a similar, if much more extended and equally disturbing, collage of racist social media vitriol. These are not typos in Spring. There are aesthetic and expressive reasons for these misspellings which appear in quotations that mimic the voices of social media vitriol scattered throughout the novel. The misspellings speak (often deeply poignantly) to forms of ignorance, operating at multiple levels in the novel.

  45. Reid, The Beethoven Song Companion, 65.

  46. Martha Nussbaum, “Mercy,” in The Oxford Handbook of Western Music and Philosophy, ed. Tomás McAuley, Nanette Nielsen, and Jerrold Levinson (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2020), 806.

  47. Smith, Spring, 59–60.

  48. Ibid., 271.

  49. Kundera, The Unbearable Lightness of Being, 32.

  50. I borrow this formulation from Ema Jélínkova, “‘Small Lives: Easily Lost in Foreign Droughts’: A. L. Kennedy’s and Ali Smith’s Short Stories of Human Interest,” in The Literary Art of Ali Smith: All We Are is Eyes, ed. Ema Jélínkova and Rachael Sumner, Transatlantic Studies in British and North American Culture 31 (Leck: CPI Books GmbH, 2019), 32.

  51. See www.refugeetales.org/books. See also Ali Smith, “The detainees tale by Ali Smith: ‘I thought you would help me,’” The Guardian, June 28, 2015, accessed December 13, 2020.

  52. Alison Flood, “Canterbury Tales rebooted with refugee stories of trafficking and detention,” The Guardian, June 13, 2016, accessed December 16, 2020.

  53. Smith, Spring, 192–93, and 272.

  54. This account of the tale Ali Smith conveys in the Refugee Tales is provided by Harriet Hulme in “In another’s shoes? Walking, Talking, and the Ethics of Storytelling in Refugee Tales and Refugee Tales II,” in Refugee Routes: Telling, Looking, Protesting, Redressing, ed. Vanessa Agnew, Kader Konuk, and Jane Newman (Bielefeld: The Academy in Exile Book Series, 2020), 229.

  55. Florence Smith in Spring is modelled on the character Marina from Shakespeare’s Pericles of Tyre. For a comparison of the two characters, see Adam Smyth, “Play for Today,” London Review of Books 41, no. 20 (October 24, 2019), accessed December 16, 2020.

  56. Waddell, Moonlighting: Beethoven and Literary Modernism, 200.

  57. Mansfield, “The Wind Blows”; Aldous Huxley, Point Counter Point (London: Chatto & Windus, 1993); E. M. Forster, A Room with a View, ed. Oliver Syallybrass (London: Penguin, 2000); E. M. Forster, Howards End, ed. David Lodge (London: Penguin, 2000); Virginia Woolf, The Waves, ed. David Bradshaw (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2015); Virginia Woolf, Jacob’s Room, ed. Kate Flint (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2000); Virginia Woolf, Moments of Being, ed. Jeanne Schulkind (London: Harcourt, 1985).

  58. Waddell, Moonlighting: Beethoven and Literary Modernism, 191.

  59. Ibid., 204.

  60. Pierre Bourdieu, The Rules of Art: Genesis and Structure of the Literary Field, trans. Susan Emanuel (Cambridge: Polity Press, 1996), 344.

  61. Smith, Spring, 270–71.

  62. Ali Smith, “Praise for Artful,” in Artful (London: Penguin, 2014).

  63. Smith, Artful, 33.

  64. Ibid.

  65. Ali Smith, “The Novel in the Age of Trump,” Goldsmiths Prize Lecture, New Statesman, October 15, 2017, accessed December 16, 2020.


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