Since Zadie Smith made her astonishing literary debut with ‘White Teeth’ in 2000, she has continued writing bestselling novels, making her one of the most prominent figures on the British literary scene.
In this extensive, absorbing interview, Smith talks about her 2016-novel ‘Swing Time’, her Jamaican heritage and writing: “It’s almost like acting. What would it be like if I were a dancer instead of a writer? … What if? … It’s a kind of fantasy life.”
Born to an English father and a Jamaican mother, Smith grew up in North London in a family with little money, who had other worries than those of the typical white middle-class: “When your main concern is survival in your mind – whether warranted or not – everything else is a luxury.”
It wasn’t until the age of 12 that Smith realized that Jamaicans were descendants of the slave trade, and she was astounded, as she had always thought that they were native to Jamaica. Now, a mother herself, she has come to realize how hard it is to explain such painful knowledge as mass atrocity to a child, even if you’re eager for them to understand: “There’s never a good time to tell your child about slavery, or the Holocaust.”