Zadie Smith was born in north-west London in 1975, and has lived there most of her life. She is the author of three novels (White Teeth, The Autograph Man, On Beauty), one book of essays (Changing My Mind), and editor of one anthology (The Book of Other People).
White Teeth was her first novel and awarded the Guardian First Book Award, the Whitbread Prize for a first novel, the James Tait Black Memorial Prize for fiction, the Frankfurt eBook Award for Best Fiction Work and the Overall Commonwealth Writers Prize, among others. On Beauty was shortlisted for The Man Booker Prize 2005 and won The Orange Prize for Fiction 2006. She was previously been a writer-in-residence at London's Institute of Contemporary Arts and a fellow at the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study.
This biography was last updated on 01/24/2011.
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A Conversation with Zadie Smith about On Beauty
This is a novel based, both in plot and theme, on E. M. Forster's
End. How did you come to the idea of writing such a book? What is it that
appeals to you about Forster's work?
Forster represents one of the earliest loves of my reading life and the first intimations I ever had of the power and beauty of this funny, artificial little construction, the novel. I wanted to pay tribute to the influence he had on me as a teenager, and as it was a book about Beauty, I wanted the novel also to be a record of beautiful things I've lovednovels, pieces of music, certain human faces, paintings, and so on. But I actually think the points where On Beauty meets Howards End are the least interesting bits of the book for me. It was simply a way of writing inside a certain genre: the literary update. I was thinking of things like Graham Swift's As I lay Dying/Last Orders combo; Joyce using the structure of the Ulysses story; Helen Fielding using Pride and Prejudiceto mention three very disparate examples.
It was a kind of scaffolding for me, but in the end the books only meet properly at two or three points. I suppose I still think of ...
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