Friday September 9, 2005
Zadie Smith: ‘not interested in being stared at in coffee shops’. Photo: Eamon McCabe
In an interview with an American magazine, the London-born writer says she believes that England has become a disgusting and terrifying place, populated by what she calls "aspirational arseholes".
The rise in patriotism prompted by the new-found success of English cricketers appears to have bypassed Smith entirely.
"When I think of England now I just think about the England that I loved, and it’s just gone," she told New York magazine.
"It’s the way people look at each other on the train; just general stupidity, madness, vulgarity, stupid TV shows, aspirational arseholes, money everywhere."
The 30-year-old novelist did, though, provide an explanation for her curmudgeonly opinions.
"Maybe I’m just getting old," she suggested.
Smith said she was expressing her forthright views to an American magazine rather than a British one because she was not keen on fame.
"I want to get on the tube," she said. "I’m not interested in being stared at in coffee shops."
Smith, who has returned to London after a stint teaching creative writing at Harvard, recently told the Guardian how liberating she had found the change of scene. "Suddenly there was place," she said. "Real place. Not just shops and corner shop owners and buses. But place, and that was fantastic."
Smith, who was educated at Cambridge, also revealed that she did not hold novelists in a particularly high intellectual regard.
"Writing a novel is quite stupid work," she said. "In a novel you’re never wrong. Novelists aren’t intellectuals, they’re just intuitive, if they’re lucky."
Smith’s third novel, On Beauty, was placed on the final shortlist of six yesterday for the Man Booker prize for fiction. The book, a homage to the work of EM Forster – and Howard’s End in particular – is set on the campus of a New England liberal arts college. Her previous books, White Teeth and The Autograph Man, were both longlisted for the prize, but did not make it to the shortlist stage.
Interviewed for Vogue before the shortlist was announced, she dismissed her chances of making the final six. "No, there’s no chance," she said. "Have you seen the fucking list?"