Zadie Smith: “On Beauty”

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Author, Zadie Smith. Photo by Dominique Nabokov

From the archives: obliquely about "On Beauty", this intense, abstract conversation is about what a novel is and how it represents a particular culture, and about what a culture is and how it can create the illusion of identity. The search for identity, Smith maintains, is a delusion. The search for beauty and truth depends upon destroying the lie of identity.

A quote from the original episode:
"But the problem with readers, the idea we're given of reading is that the model of a reader is the person watching a film, or watching television. So the greatest principle is, "I should sit here and I should be entertained." And the more classical model, which has been completely taken away, is the idea of a reader as an amateur musician. An amateur musician who sits at the piano, has a piece of music, which is the work, made by somebody they don't know, who they probably couldn't comprehend entirely, and they have to use their skills to play this piece of music. The greater the skill, the greater the gift that you give the artist and that the artist gives you. That's the incredibly unfashionable idea of reading. And yet when you practice reading, and you work at a text, it can only give you what you put into it. It's an old moral, but it's completely true."

This episode originally aired on November 9, 2006.

Credits

Host:
Michael Silverblatt

Producers:
Shawn Sullivan, Alan Howard