“Autumn” is about Daniel Gluck, a 101-year-old former songwriter, who lies asleep and dreaming in his care home. He is regularly visited by 32-year-old Elisabeth Demand, who had been his next-door neighbor as a young child. Her mother had disapproved of their early friendship, but Elisabeth had nevertheless formed a close bond with him and been inspired by his descriptions of works of art. As a consequence of his influence on her, Elisabeth is now a junior arts lecturer at a London university. A major character in the novel is the long-dead '60s pop artist, Pauline Boty, the subject of Elisabeth’s graduate school thesis. The story largely alternates between Daniel’s prolonged dreams as he edges closer to death, and Elisabeth’s recollections of the origins of their friendship and its repercussions.
The book, first published by Hamish Hamilton, is the first of four seasonal “state of the nation” works. Written rapidly after the United Kingdom’s 2016 European Union membership referendum, it was widely regarded as the first “post-Brexit novel” dealing with the issues raised by the voters’ decision.
In July 2017, “Autumn” was longlisted for the 2017 Man Booker Prize for Fiction, and in September 2017 it was announced as one of six books to make the shortlist. Many newspapers viewed it as the most likely candidate for winning.
The book was named by The New York Times as one of the 10 Best Books of 2017.
Smith was born in Inverness, Scotland, to working-class parents. She was raised in a council house in Inverness and now lives in Cambridge.
She studied at Aberdeen, and then at Cambridge, for a Ph.D. that was never finished. In a 2004 interview with writing magazine Mslexia, she talked briefly about the difficulty of becoming ill with chronic fatigue syndrome for a year and how it forced her to give up her job as a lecturer at the University of Strathclyde to focus on what she really wanted to do: writing.
Two other Persian translations of her novel “Autumn” by Khatereh Baqeri and Floria Vernus have been published earlier in Iran.