For years, I resisted the Zadie Smith cult. Then I plunged into her latest novel, "NW," and found her look at London immigrant life innovative, exciting, alive. Her experimental language echoed modernism while remaining original, accessible and current. The characters live in my mind; I can see their faces and and hear their voices.
She returned to the same fictional territory for her short story, "The Cambodian Embassy," which appeared in a recent New Yorker. The story's deep symbolism, vivid immigrant characters and captivating plot resulted in a classic story. Reading it, I thought of Katherine Mansfield, while "NW" showed flashes of James Joyce. In these works, Smith honors the traditions of English literature and renews them for today.