• Art of Inspiration

    • A story is neither true nor false: it is interesting, intriguing, exciting or it is none of these things. With her Moth Award acceptance speech, Zadie Smith takes us to one of the earliest chapters in the art storytelling.

    Zadie Smith and a narrator’s magical lies / 

    Zadie Smith is an English novelist born in 1975. Her two first novels (White Teeth and The Autograph Man), became successful immediately, both on commercial and critical terms. But the sweet taste of success in Smith’s life was not easy to come by; she transited through a series of jobs before she felt completely sure that her calling was to be a writer, specifically, a novelist.

    Born to an English father and a Jamaican mother, journalism, philology, dancing and even jazz singing, were some of Smith’s early professional explorations. As a matter of fact, she and her husband, Nick Laird are currently working on a musical about Franz Kafka.

    The warmth and wisdom of Smith’s work has earned her place as an extremely powerful English writer, and her readers and translations have grown accordingly.

    In May 2014, Smith received the prestigious Moth Award, and to accept the prize she gave the most beautiful speech entitled “Storytelling is a magical, ruthless discipline”, an ode and a summary about her passion for storytelling, which dates back to primary school. Smith, a loner since childhood, began to be accepted by her classmates when she told a short story: Smith assured everyone that in a tower close to a playground in her neighborhood, “a tragic young woman lived, the prisoner of a God who did not want this girl to marry her true love, Superman.”

    Smith accepts that it didn’t make sense, but it was a story that kept growing, it included several variations and scenes where the tragic young girl threw smoke signals: the clouds were messages for her love, Superman, pleading for him to rescue her. But her story required the children to put a tac in their shoe, and “The more people with tacs in their shoe, the louder it will sound when you walk, and the louder it sounds when you walk, the — Oh, I don’t remember” confesses Smith, “There must have been a logic to it, but I can’t recall now what it was.”

    When one of her classmates, a little skeptical girl who did not believe Zadie’s story threatened to tell everyone it was a scam, Smith stuck her leg out and made the girl trip. However, her enemy never told on her. What she felt afterwards is proof that magic and brutality can in fact converge for those that live the stories that others would call lies:

    Crying, filthy, she lay defeated on the floor, and the look she gave me I have never forgotten. It was a horrified question: What kind of a person is this? The nurse came; Anupma was taken to the medical room to be patched up, and as far as I know she did not rat on me, neither concerning my lies nor my casual brutality. At least, I was allowed to pass unmolested on to class. I caught up with my classmates in the hall. “What is that noise?” asked the teacher as we shuffled into class. Tap taptap. It took me a second to recognize it myself. Tacs in every shoe.

    Tagged: Zadie Smith, writers, inspiration