The Smile by Ray Bradbury

A Short Story Set in the Future

He wrote more than 27 novels and over 600 short stories and somehow his work has never crossed my path.

As I read the Culture and Book pages of The Guardian daily, I have been reading some wonderful tributes to the writer Ray Bradbury who died recently at the age of 91. ‘Margaret Atwood on Ray Bradbury: the tale-teller who tapped into the gothic core of America’ was interesting, Atwood celebrates the author, known for his science fiction but who has shown remarkable scope and influence throughout his career. He was a story-teller; he had an active and far-reaching imagination and rejected the limitation of labels.

After a quick trip to our local French library yesterday, I stopped at a display table honouring Ray Bradbury and came home with his prophetic short story ‘The Smile’ the only English language work left on the display.

Set in 2061, the story is set in a square in Rome, where the boy Tom waits with an angry crowd to view the ‘Mona Lisa’. Joy has vanished from this world and people are filled with hate for everything that represents the past. Except Tom. He remembers. He represents hope. Perhaps love. Certainly appreciation.

Tom stood before the painting and looked at it for a long time.

The woman in the painting smiled serenely, secretly, at Tom, and he looked back at her, his heart beating, a kind of music in his ears.

27 thoughts on “The Smile by Ray Bradbury

    • If you read the Margaret Atwood article you might agree that his writing is more about humanity than just about the future era he sometimes elected to write within. Definitely read one of his books and see, then tell us what you thought.


  1. I never read Bradbury, although Fahrenheit 451 is waiting on my TBR-shelf here. I expect a lot of this book and hope I will love it.


  2. Yes, his science fiction does not feel at all like science – it’s all about relationships and feelings. They are beautiful, thought-provoking, poetic. I remember my first encounter with Ray Bradbury was in Primary 5 or so. We read a short story (I can’t remember its name but I would recognise it if I saw it again) and it really made me think for the first time about the fragility of the planet and about humankind and where it is heading. I think it made me realise that genre doesn’t matter, what matters is a good story and the feelings it can arouse in your readers.


  3. Like you I’ve read many glowing tributes to Ray Bradbury over the last few days yet I’ve never read any of his work. Science fiction isn’t my thing really – I tried the first Ian Banks sci- fi novel years ago but gave up. However like youim off to the library next week to give Bradbury a try.


    • I think if we drop the sci-fi label (as Bradbury was inclined to himself), we may find there is more to this writer than the label implies, I am enjoying reading what others are sharing about him and definitely keen to read more. If the blurb hadn’t mentioned the year 2061, this story could have been set in any era really.


  4. The only Ray Bradbury book I’ve read is Farenheit 451, which I think I’ll be rereading soon as a tribute to him. I remember reading it in college and enjoying it. I can’t say I’m a die hard fan of science fiction but I do enjoy it every now and then. The Smile looks intriguing and may look into reading it and any other of his books. Thanks again for adding to my TBR list Claire! 🙂


  5. I like Bradbury’s writing, but as a librarian, I’m even more devoted to him for all the support he gave libraries as institutions. A self-taught man, he visited the library three times a week for ten years, and never forgot what libraries made accessible for him. When publishers denied libraries the right to circulate their e-books, Bradbury disagreed with the decision and made guaranteed library access a condition of sale to the publisher.


    • It sounds like his work is quite varied and his being so prolific a writer, I’m sure you will find something that appeals, I’m looking forward to reading one of his novels or even ‘Zen in the Art of Writing’.


  6. I’m sure I read Ray back in my grammar school days, although 50 years gets in the way of remembering. He left his mark on this world, and we are the better for his sharings.


  7. I read Fahrenheit 451 only a few months ago and became an instant fan of Bradbury’s writing. I had not heard of “The Smile”, but I’m going to add it to my TBR now. Thanks for sharing your find. He’s definitely worth a read – I would agree “humanity” is a better description than “sci fi” of what I read.


    • Thanks Rebecca, I guess it doesn’t matter when we discover a writer, sometimes the timing is just right whenever that is, I am happy to have discovered him now and love his voice already. I like what you say about humanity too, that’s the feeling I get from what people are writing about him.


  8. So great to see the mainstream literary press paying such devotion to a sci-fi writer. I, likewise, haven’t heard of ‘The Smile’, but I’m definitely going to seek it out now. Great post; lovely tribute. 🙂


    • Thank you Naomi, it was pure chance I picked this up and what a wonderful, insightful story it was, I am sure I was introduced to the pure Ray Bradbury without any of the labels, the perfect introduction. I’m going to look out for his short story collection that Jason mentioned.


  9. The more of Ray Bradbury you read, Claire, the more you will fall in love with this writer. For years I thought he was strictly a sci-fi author until a friend convinced me he was so much more. She was right!


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