‘Identity is a pain in the arse’: Zadie Smith on political correctness
At Hay Cartagena festival author questions role of social media in policing personal development
Claire Armitstead Sat 2 Feb 2019 10.55 EST
The writer Zadie Smith laid into identity politics in a headline session at the 14th Hay Cartagena festival, insisting novelists had not only a right, but a duty to be free.
She conceded that the assertion of a collective identity was sometimes necessary “to demand rights”, but cited the dismay of her husband – the poet and novelist Nick Laird – at finding himself increasingly categorised. “He turned to me and said: ‘I used to be myself and I’m now white guy, white guy.’ I said: ‘Finally, you understand.’
She went on to question the role of social media in policing personal development.
to the issue of political correctness, she reflected on her debut novel White Teeth, which had depicted characters from many backgrounds but, she said, had been given an easy ride by the white critics because “[its characters] were mostly brown.
citing Gustave Flaubert’s Madame Bovary as an example of the power of the reprobate imagination. “Women have felt very close to these fake, pretend women invented by men. It makes us feel uncomfortable in real life. This is not real life. It’s perverse, but it’s what’s possible in fiction. There’s no excuse for its irresponsibility, but fiction is fundamentally irresponsible.”
more on social media in this IMS blog