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Man Booker Prize 2017 Spotlight: Zadie Smith

Zadie Smith, a celebrated English novelist, essayist, and short story writer makes her way to the long list of the Man Booker Prize 2017 for her fifth novel Swing Time. She was born in North London in 1975 to an English father and a Jamaican mother. She read English at Cambridge, graduating in 1997.

She was elected a fellow of the Royal Society of Literature in 2002. In a 2004 BBC poll of cultural researchers, Smith was named among the top twenty most influential people in British Culture.

As of 2016, she has published five novels. In 2003, she was included on Granta’s list of 20 best young authors, and was also included in the 2013 list. She joined New York University’s Creative Writing Program as a tenured professor on 1 September 2010. Smith has won the Orange Prize for Fiction and the Anisfieldn-Wolf Book Award in 2006 and her novel White Teeth was included in Time magazine’s list of the 100 best English-language novels from 1923 to 2005.

Smith completed White Teeth during her final year at Cambridge. Published in 2000, the novel became a best-seller immediately. It was praised internationally and won a number of awards. The novel was adapted for television in 2002 by Channel 4. Smith also served as the writer-in-residence at the Institute of Contemporary Arts in London and subsequently published, as editor, an anthology of sex writing, Piece of Flesh (ICA, 1999), as the culmination of this role.

Her second novel, The Autograph Man, was published in 2002 and was a commercial success, although the critical response was not as positive as it had been to White Teeth.

She started work on a book of essays, The Morality of the Novel, aka Fail Better, in which she considers a selection of 20th-century writers through the lens of moral philosophy . Some portions of this book presumably are included in the essay collection Changing My Mind, published in November 2009.

The second novel was followed by another, On Beauty (published in September 2005), which is set largely in and around Greater Boston and which attracted more acclaim. This third novel was shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize, and won the 2006 Orange Prize for Fiction and the Anisfield-Wolf Book Awards.

Later in the same year, Smith published Martha and Hanwell, a book combining two short stories about two troubled characters, originally published in Granta and The New Yorker.

In 2010, The Guardian newspaper asked Smith for her “10 rules for writing fiction”. Among them she declared: “Tell the truth through whichever veil comes to hand – but tell it. Resign yourself to the lifelong sadness that comes from never being satisfied.” Beginning with the March 2011 issue, extending until October 2011, Smith was the monthly New Books reviewer for Harper’s Magazine. Smith’s novel NW was published in 2012. NW was shortlisted for the Royal Society of Literature Ondaatje Prize and the Women’s Prize for Fiction.

This year, the judging panel of Man Booker Prize include her once again in the long list. Zadie Smith was picked for her story of the friendship and rivalry between two London girls who meet at a dance class, Swing Time.

>Afsana Ritee

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