Award-winning novelist Zadie Smith returns to Camden in rare public appearance

Zadie Smith at Swiss Cottage Library. Picture: Nigel Sutton

Zadie Smith at Swiss Cottage Library. Picture: Nigel Sutton - Credit: Nigel Sutton

Award-winning novelist Zadie Smith, who went to school in Camden, returned to the borough yesterday to talk about her latest book set in north west London in a rare public appearance.

Ms Smith, who is now based in New York, read a short passage from NW, which came out last summer, to a captive audience at Swiss Cottage Library in Avenue Road before opening up about her school years at Hampstead School in Cricklewood, life in the US and her love of libraries.

Speaking rapidly in conversation with Evening Standard journalist Richard Godwin, Ms Smith, who grew up in Queen’s Park and still has a house there, praised the “fantastic” Swiss Cottage Library facilities.

But the White Teeth author stressed the importance of libraries in poorer areas as well as richer areas such as Swiss Cottage.

“When you have money, you don’t realise the importance of places where you don’t have to buy anything. Apart from churches and mosques, there is nowhere else to go.”

The evening was hosted by cabinet member for communities and culture Cllr Tulip Siddiq, who expressed her concerns about decreasing footfall in Camden’s libraries to the Ham&High before the talk began.

She said: “It’s really important to have these big events because it gets people through the threshold and then they are more likely to come back.

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“I’ve loved coming here since I was 15 years old so to come back and host an event like this is very weird.

“It’s great to have Zadie here because she is one of our own, as she went to Hampstead School.”

The night was organised by publishers Penguin and The Reading Agency, who have launched a capital-wide reading group based around the book. They have supplied libraries across London with copies, audio tapes and posters in a bid to get more people reading.

For more, see next week’s edition of the Ham&High.