Zadie Smith (1975– ). One of the most promising young novelists in England, already famous for her panoramic image of a multiracial, multicultural London. Born to an English father (an advertising executive) and a Jamaican mother (a child psychologist), Smith grew up in the North London neighbourhood of Willesden. She attended Cambridge, where she began working on her first novel. Circulated in manuscript, the novel’s opening pages set off a bidding war among English publishers. It’s easy to see why. Hilarious and compassionate, traditional in form yet very much of the moment, White Teeth (2000) marked an astonishing debut. In many ways, the novel is the story of two friends—one English, the other Bengali—whose lives and destinies are increasingly intertwined. Smith followed her initial success with The Autograph Man (2002) and On Beauty (2005), a novel informed by her experience as a Radcliffe Fellow at Harvard. On Beauty is set in the community surrounding an American college,
and the central figure is Howard Belsey, a contentious art historian. Smith borrows much of the novel’s structure from Howards End (1910) and credits E. M. Forster as a major influence on her work.
[Courtesy: Professor Timothy Spurgin]