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New Yorker Fiction Review #150: "Two Men Arrive in a Village" by Zadie Smith

From the June 6 &13, 2016 Issue...

The coming of a New Yorker "Fiction" issue fills me with dread, and it shouldn't. Why dread? Because, since I'm always behind in writing my reviews (and even if I weren't) I have no hope of being able to read every story let alone review and write about each one. And this makes me feel a little remiss in my mission, and also makes it impossible for me to say I've reviewed every piece of fiction in the NYer for the past however many years I've been doing this. But I digress...

Funny that the one story I should pick to review from this last June's fiction review is another meta masterpiece, this one by one of the greatest living writers working in the English language: Zadie Smith. "Two Men Arrive in a Village" is a story that could happen in any village, in any politically unstable country, anywhere in the world and, as acknowledged by the meta-subtext of the story, has been happening for years.

What happens when these two men arrive in a village in Africa, shortly after a political revolution has turned the country (which country, we don't know) upside down? Well, it ain't good. That's all I'll say. What works about this story is the way Smith is able to create a dark, ominous mood and tell a story that has happened time and again, while also keeping it grounded enough in the details of the story at hand (META. WHOA). Double-decker fiction.


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