Ali Smith's Autumn is being hailed as "the first post-Brexit novel" and yesterday’s reading and discussion from multi-award-winning author gave a new insight into the complexities of her latest novel.

Autumn is the first of Smith’s quartet of "seasonal" novels exploring "what time is, how we experience it". Although Smith had the idea for 20 years, she became compelled to write in the lead-up to the referendum and realised she "had to make [them] about these changing times".

On belonging and the politics of nationalism, Smith said: "you can’t like borders if you’re a writer, or you can only like them to cross them - it’s about the magic that happens on the borders, not about restricting people from crossing them."

Borders in their figurative sense of in-between places tie together her views on Brexit, her aims for the series and her meditation on consuming literature. She rejects geographical and temporal borders, saying "we all hold many times in our bodies, even many futures". When she read from Autumn, it was clear her characters hold Britain before Brexit, Britain in the throws of contradiction immediately post-Brexit, but also the future. Poignantly we as reader share the unwritten future.

The very nature of Smith’s process is profound and carries political weight. She argues the case for cyclical time by publishing seasonally and reaching back to the spirit of "Dickens" installments’ with her speedy composition - and also, when she reads, with her style reminiscent of Homer and the oral tradition.

Smith is adamant that everything is linked. Autumn is about echoing concerns through time - from Brexit back to the Odyssey: “about hospitality, and about the traveller travelling home - can it ever be home? Mass movement and what we need to do about it is a topic of Autumn.”

Freya Marshall Payne