Zadie Smith

“When you’re young, you come to destroy the generation above. I’m used to being the destroyer, and now I’m here to be destroyed. What I do notice about the writers I came to destroy is… you feel a kind of new fondness for them. I hope I feel that way about my work as I get older, that I come around to it again. At the moment, I’m excited to do something new.

–Zadie Smith, episode 348 of Talk Easy with Sam Fragoso

Novelist Zadie Smith is one of the most acclaimed and beloved writers of her generation. Editor David Remnick has called her “a blessing not merely to The New Yorker but to language itself.” Author George Saunders has praised Smith’s work for its “heart and moral ambition.” I, too, think she’s quite good.

And so today we’re joined by Smith to discuss her prescient historical novel The Fraud (8:20), her instinctive writing process (14:06), and the role of projection in her work (20:30). Then, Zadie reflects on her upbringing in North West London (24:12), the art that influenced her growing up (27:15), and the media circus that followed the publication of her debut novel, White Teeth (33:45).

On the back-half, we discuss her desire to frequently reinvent herself as an artist as a writer (41:55), why she prioritized pleasure after her book On Beauty (45:17), the nuanced politics of her work (49:04), her evolving relationship to humanism (48:15), a striking passage from Intimations (54:00), and what she sees in this next generation of novelists (1:04:45).

For more talks, hear our conversations with writers George Saunders, Margo Jefferson, Min Jin Lee, Jhumpa Lahiri, Ocean Vuong, and Jennifer Egan.

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This conversation was recorded at Spotify Studios.

Illustrations by Krishna ShenoiReference photograph by Tyler Mitchell.

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