As award-winning novelist, essayist and short-story writer Zadie Smith celebrates her 40th birthday today, we look back on her ground-breaking work in the world of British and international literature.
Born in North London to an English father and a Jamaican mother, Smith first exploded onto the literary scene when she accepted a six-figure advance for her then-unfinished debut novel, as well as a second work, when she was just 21 and still reading English Literature at Cambridge. When White Teeth was published three years later, it seemed that the hype was justified; the novel garnered overwhelmingly positive reviews, and earned her several accolades (including the Whitbread First Novel Award).
Since then, she has written three more critically-acclaimed novels, all of which tackle issues such as immigration, race and sexuality with her characteristic mix of humour and pathos. Smith is also known for her work as a contributor and editor of anthologies of both short stories and non-fiction essays.
Zadie Smith has come a long way from White Teeth, and as she reaches forty her career is showing no sign of slowing down. Not only is she currently working on a new sci-fi novel, Film4 is set to produce a refugee drama inspired by her 2013 novella The Embassy of Cambodia, adapted by Smith for the screen in collaboration with her husband, Nick Laird.
Words by Grace Cain