Zadie Smith’s On Beauty, excerpted

Today’s Telegraph runs an exclusive excerpt from Zadie Smith’s forthcoming, Booker prize-longlisted third novel, On Beauty, which appears in the U.K. on September 2.

Elsewhere in the Telegraph (in an article I can only find via Lexis-Nexis), Smith reveals that she nearly abandoned the book several times:

When she began writing it, she says, “I was very uncertain whether it was the kind of novel I wanted to write, or even one I wanted to read.” Although not out until next week, On Beauty — which she describes as a bourgeois suburban comedy — is producing a hum in literary circles and has been long-listed for the Booker prize….

[S]he admits: “The Autograph Man was a correction to the didactic excesses (as I saw them) of White Teeth. And now On Beauty is an attempt to correct the emotional black hole in The Autograph Man.”

On Beauty is arguably her most ambitious novel, featuring two middle-class, mixed-race and black families, one based in an American east coast university town and the other in London. The entire plot came to her in a dream, she says, but it was only after she woke her husband to recount it that she realised the narrative had many similarities to E M Forster’s Howards End.

A mostly positive review of On Beauty appears in the weekend’s Scotsman.


You might want to subscribe to my free Substack newsletter, Ancestor Trouble, if the name makes intuitive sense to you.