‘Moonlit Landscape With Bridge’ by Zadie Smith


From The New Yorker:

The Minister of the Interior stood in the middle of the room, assessing three suits laid over a chair. One was a pale morning-sky blue; the next tan, of light material, intended for these terrible summers; the last a heavy worsted English three-piece, gray, for state visits. They were slung across one another every which way, three corpses in a pile. The rest of the marbled room—his wife had liked to call it the “salon”—was in boxes, labelled, optimistically, with a forwarding address. Within the hour, efficient young Ari would drive the Minister to the airport, and from there—all being well—he would leave to join his wife and children in Paris. The car would not be a minute out of the driveway, he knew, before the household staff fell on these boxes like wild beasts upon carrion. The Minister of the Interior rubbed the trouser leg of the gray between his fingers. He was at least fortunate that the most significant painting in the house happened also to be the smallest: a van der Neer miniature, which, in its mix of light and water, reminded him oddly of his own ancestral village. It fit easily into his suit bag, wrapped in a pillowcase. Everything else one must resign oneself to losing: pictures, clothes, statues, the piano—even the books.

“So it goes,” the philosophical Minister said out loud, surprising himself—it was a sentence from a previous existence. “So it goes.” Without furniture, without curtains, his voice rose unimpeded to the ceiling, as in a church.

“You call me, sir?”

Elena stood in the doorway, more bent over than he’d ever seen her.

“Call? No . . . no.”

She seemed not to hear him. Her eyes had taken on an uncomprehending glaze, open yet unseeing. It was the same look the Minister had noted in all those portraits of heroic peasants presently stacked against the wall.

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