The Wheeler Centre
‘To my mind, a true “creative” should not simply seek to satisfy a pre–existing demand but instead transform our notion of what it is we want.’
Almost two decades ago, 24–year–old Zadie Smith’s debut novel, White Teeth, garnered rapturous reviews and comparisons to the then stalwarts of the British literary establishment. To be a successful author was to be so in the shadows of Rushdie, Amis, McEwan. But here was an author who not only satisfied the demands of the tradition into which she was writing, she transformed it.
In the intervening years, across novels and essays, reviews and short stories, Smith has again and again proved herself to be the standard against which new, vital, electrifying voices are measured. With wit and verve, compassion and creativity, she has created a body of work and attracted a legion of passionate readers with a new notion of what they want. There is nobody like Zadie Smith.
In conversation with Jia Tolentino.