Man Vs. Corpse, By Zadie Smith

1448 Words 6 Pages
Barefoot, wet, and cold, author Zadie Smith, as recounted in her essay Man vs. Corpse, finds an old collection of Italian paintings bound in a weathered hardcover. Grappling with the ever-familiar urge to explore lives unfamiliar—via social media—on her phone, she forces herself to thumb through the contents. She asserts that her “mind does not easily accept stately historical processions. But Golden Yellows and eggshell blues [...] are the sorts of things [her] mind accepts.” (2) Flipping through the pictures she is enthralled by the colors and lines so brilliantly and thoughtfully finessed upon the page. Here, hidden among a slew of other masterpieces, she spots Luca Signorelli’s Man Carrying Corpse on His Shoulders. Beckoned by the man’s buttocks, which are described as “vigorous,” she sees a man walking away from the audience with a corpse steadily balanced on his shoulders. And, for at least a moment, she “is not a woman looking at a man carrying a corpse. [She is] that corpse.” (7)
Smith’s writing confronts the concept of mortality and human perception of death. She asks the reader to “imagine being a corpse.” She isn’t inquiring about the experience of being a corpse, as she explains, but rather “imagine [...] an absolute certainty about you, namely, that you
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But those other people (often brown, often poor) come from a death-dealing place.” (4) Our environment is safe, relatively. We assume that we are in no danger, but being in the same place for so long we begin to see certain things as not a problem, or normal. In Walkabout, I imagine that the walkabout is used to not seeing water, but he knows where to find it. The kids are more used to a tap and finding water is new. A person’s ability to live, to survive, to not become that corpse and maintain the “except me” philosophy is dependant on this. People need to feel as though they are capable of living where they

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