Translation from English

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Zadie Smith and "The Waiter's Wife"

This is a short blurb I wrote of Zadie Smith's short story " The Waiter's Wife," which I believe will give you an immediate idea of the areas of  the author's concerns:

Summary of "The Waiter's Wife"

This story takes place in London in 1975 and involves a Bangladeshi immigrant couple, their friends and relatives. The focus is on the title character, named Alsana, her poverty and her pregnancy, and the argument with her niece that forms the climax of the story.

While the focus is Alsana, the point of view is neutral and I would say intended for a general audience.

The story is, that while struggling in London , her husband working as a waiter in his nephew's restaurant, Alsana becomes pregnant with two boys ( as shown by a sonogram). The climactic argument with her niece-- sparked by a glib remark about the possibility of an abortion-- provokes an angry outburst from Alsana about her way to an odd kind of acceptance  which is a mixture of stoicism and despair. 
The story is very evocatively told and really manages to suggest a whole milieu without a great deal of "local color"-- it is all very economically done.

I would say the tone of this story is bittersweet at best, and you can well feel the frustration and attempts at adjustment by this couple which is aggravated by an age difference-- the husband is about 20 years older than Alsana--added in. 

The use of minor characters I found wonderful, and again done with maximum economy.


Zadie Smith

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Zadie Smith
Zadie Smith NBCC 2011 Shankbone.jpg
Smith announcing the 2010 National Book Critics Circle award finalists in fiction.
Born Sadie Smith
25 October 1975 (age 38)
Brent, London, United Kingdom
Occupation Novelist, Professor of Creative Writing
Nationality British
Alma mater King's College, Cambridge
Period 2000–present
Literary movement Realism, postmodernism, hysterical realism
Zadie Smith FRSL (born on 25 October 1975)[1] is a British novelist, essayist and short story writer.
As of 2012, she has published four novels, all of which have received substantial critical praise. In 2003, she was included on Granta's list of 20 best young authors, and was also included in the 2013 list.[2] She joined New York University's Creative Writing Program as a tenured professor on September 1, 2010.[3] Smith has won the Orange Prize for Fiction in 2006 and her novel White Teeth was included in Time magazine's TIME 100 Best English-language Novels from 1923 to 2005 list.

Early life

Zadie Smith was born as Sadie Smith in the northwest London borough of Brent to a Jamaican mother, Yvonne Bailey, and a British father, Harvey Smith. Her mother had grown up in Jamaica and emigrated to Britain in 1969. Their marriage was her father's second. Zadie has a half-sister, a half-brother, and two younger brothers, one of whom is the rapper and stand-up comedian Doc Brown and the other is rapper Luc Skyz. As a child she was fond of tap dancing;[1] as a teenager she considered a career as an actress in musical theatre; and as a university student she earned money as a jazz singer and wanted to become a journalist.

Her parents divorced when she was a teenager. When she was 14, she changed her name to "Zadie".[4] Despite earlier ambitions, literature emerged as her principal interest.


Smith attended the local state schools, Malorees Junior School and Hampstead Comprehensive School, and King's College, Cambridge University where she studied English literature. In an interview with The Guardian in 2000, Smith corrected a newspaper assertion that she left Cambridge with a double First. "Actually, I got a Third in my Part Ones," she said.[5]

Zadie Smith seems to have been rejected for a place in the Cambridge Footlights by the popular British comedy double act Mitchell and Webb, while all three were studying at Cambridge University in the 1990s.[6]

At Cambridge she published a number of short stories in a collection of new student writing called The Mays Anthology. (See Short stories.) These attracted the attention of a publisher, who offered her a contract for her first novel. Smith decided to contact a literary agent and was taken on by A.P. Watt.[7] Smith returned to guest-edit the anthology in 2001.[8]


White Teeth was introduced to the publishing world in 1997, before it was completed. On the basis of a partial manuscript an auction among different publishers for the rights started, with Hamish Hamilton being successful. Smith completed White Teeth during her final year at Cambridge.

Published in 2000, the novel became a bestseller immediately. It was praised internationally and won a number of awards (see Novels). The novel was adapted for television in 2002 by Channel 4.[1] She also served as "writer in residence" at the ICA in London and subsequently published, as editor, an anthology of sex writing, Piece of Flesh, as the culmination of this role.

In interviews she reported that the hype surrounding her first novel had caused her to suffer a short spell of writer's block. Nevertheless, 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.

After the publication of The Autograph Man, Smith visited the United States as a 2002–2003 Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study Fellow at Harvard University.[9] She started work on a still unreleased 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,[10] and won the 2006 Orange Prize for Fiction.

In December 2008 she guest-edited the BBC Radio 4 Today programme.[11]

After teaching fiction at Columbia University School of the Arts, she joined New York University as a tenured professor of fiction as of 1 September 2010.

Beginning with the March 2010 issue, extending until late 2011, Smith was the monthly New Books reviewer for Harper's Magazine.[12]

Smith's latest novel, NW, was published in 2012. It is set in the Kilburn area of London, the title being a reference to the local postcode, NW6.

In 2010, The Guardian asked Smith for her 10 Rules for writing fiction. Amongst 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." [13]

Personal life

Smith met Nick Laird at Cambridge University. They married in 2004 in the Chapel of King's College, Cambridge. Smith dedicated On Beauty to "my dear Laird". The couple lived in Monti, Rome, Italy, from November 2006 to 2007 and are now based between New York City and Queen's Park, London.[14] They have two children, Katherine (Kit) and Harvey.[15]




  • Changing My Mind: Occasional Essays (2009)

As editor