In a wide-ranging interview, Zadie Smith offers insight into how we view ourselves, both inside and outside of books:
You’re so used to this kind of smoothness in writing, this feeling that you, the reader, or you, the writer, are this great empathic, wondrous soul. I would love to be that, but of course when we see the way we behave in the world really to other people, we’re confronted with a different version of who we are. Not just this wonderful, tolerant, broad person who sees humanity and everything, but someone a little more narrow, self-defended, sometimes cruel, sometimes selfish. I wanted to try and show that. And also, someone who—people who live in a city, who are able to switch off these famous values of empathy and tolerance and love quite suddenly when you need to. Or if you need to. I wanted to be honest about that experience, but it’s not something you want reflected back at you perhaps, it’s not a pleasure. But reading can be many things: sometimes it can be a pleasure, sometimes it’s a bit tougher. It’s a broad church that way.