Born in 1975 in the Northwest London borough of Brent, a place that would be the setting for some of her novels, Zadie Smith cultivated a wide range of interests from a very early age, from tap dancing to journalism to jazz music. But in the end, it was literature that emerged as her primary talent. Upon completing her studies, she enrolled in King’s College in Cambridge to read English literature. In the meantime she published some short stories in a collection of student work. An editor sensed her talent and offered her a contract. Three years later, in 2000, her first novel, White Teeth (published in Italy by Mondadori) was instantly acclaimed by critics and public alike and became a global literary sensation.
It won her many prizes, including the Whitbread First Novel Award, the Guardian First Book Award and the Commonwealth Writers First Book Prize. In the years that followed, she wrote her second novel, The Autograph Man, followed in 2005 by the third, On Beauty, set in Boston, which won the Orange Prize for fiction. Then came NW, which was nominated for the Women’s Prize for Fiction, and shortlisted as one of the five finalists, and in 2016, Swing Time, a coming-of-age story centred on the friendship between two young girls. She has taught at New York University since 2010, and is a frequent contributor to the New York Times and New Yorker magazine. During the quarantine, she wrote a collection of essays titled Intimations, edited by SUR, which confirms yet again that hers is one of the sharpest and most powerful voices of her generation.
She will speak about this and much more during the Close Encounter with the audiences of the Fest, of which she will be the protagonist.