Zadie Smith Interview: On Bad Girls, Good Guys and the Complicated Midlife

Jul 7, 2017
1 min read

Zadie Smith was born in north-west London to a Jamaican mother and a British father, who divorced when she was a teenager.

Aged just 24, having published her best seller ‘White Teeth’, Zadie Smith was already being compared to Salman Rushdie. Three novels and thirteen years later, and Zadie Smith’s interest in examining perceived wisdom has resulted in the tragi-comic novel NW (2012), which takes place in Kilburn, London.

In this interview Zadie Smith talks about how her books are about “nothing — nothing of great consequence happens” but how they are at the same time existential novels — about the problems of contemporary life – such as disconnection, boredom and looking for your identity: “When I’m writing I’m always trying to find some echo of the time I’m in.”

Zadie Smith explains how NW is about “layers of English life” and how she is very interested in the local — understanding local things and her own generation. In the local Zadie Smiths sees history, based on places as well as on the English language. To Zadie Smith, novels are about time — how time is commonly perceived as passing in equal measures — but in reality speeds up intolerably once you reach your mid thirties. Zadie Smith describes her own generation as eternal adolescents, in shock about the fact that they are about to turn 40.

While Zadie Smith explains that she has set herself the challenge of writing in the tone of a 19th century novel, she also explains that she feels novels are changing to fit better with contemporary life. We experience life differently than we used to, and specifically women experience time differently to men.

Zadie Smith (b.1975) is an award winning British novelist, essayist and short story writer, who has published four novels, all of which have received substantial critical praise.


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