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LIVE from the NYPL: Zadie Smith

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Posted: 11.29.10, 05:28 AM
It was a great idea to invite Zadie Smith at the NYPL. On the other hand, I regret that the process of changing of mind was not more clearly detailed. Zadie Smith evoked her long times of solitary reading, throughout her youth, but she could not refrain from referring to Roland Barthes or Nabokov, for example, in an almost erudite way… She says that reading is not a passive process, but she does not explain by which way our reading can become creative or help us to change our mind… Besides she says that for her, writing was a heavy work, but it seems that her first real heavy work was reading! She told to Josie Gill in an interview about her life in Cambridge ( ) that “Without it [the literary theory and the philosophy], [she] never would have written anything”. For her, “King's was one long, invigorating conversation”. Does it mean that reading is a conversation in the same way than in the Platonist dialogs? Now, isn’t it the role of the literary critic to make the text speak, thanks to his culture and sensitivity of writing styles? As for me, I regret that Paul Holdengräber did not take us into the work of Zadie Smith, in her novels. It would have been interesting, for example, to find out how, by the baroque style of her last novel On Beauty , she invites the readers to change their mind following the carnival esthetics of the reversal (according to Bakhtin's carnival concept), thanks to an intercultural dialog and transculturation between the Haitian mythology and the American society (for more details, see Jérôme Poinsot’s article in : ).