On Beauty Read online





  Contents

  acknowledgements

  kipps and belsey

  1

  2

  3

  4

  5

  6

  7

  8

  9

  10

  11

  12

  the anatomy lesson

  1

  2

  3

  4

  5

  6

  7

  8

  9

  10

  11

  on beauty and being wrong

  1

  2

  3

  4

  5

  6

  7

  8

  9

  10

  11

  12

  13

  author’s note

  Published by the Penguin Group:

  Penguin Books Ltd, 80 Strand, London WC2R 0RL, England

  Penguin Putnam Inc., 375 Hudson Street, New York, New York 10014, USA

  Penguin Books Australia Ltd, 250 Camberwell Road, Camberwell, Victoria 3124, Australia

  Penguin Books Canada Ltd, 90 Eglington Avenue Ear, Suite 700, Toronto, Ontario, Canada MP4

  2Y3

  Penguin Ireland, 25 St Stephen’s Green, Dublin 2, Ireland

  Penguin Books India (P) Ltd, 11 Community Centre, Panchsheel Park, New Delhi – 110 017, India

  Penguin Books (NZ) Ltd, Cnr Rosedale and Airborne Roads, Albany, Auckland, New Zealand

  Penguin Books (South Africa) (Pty) Ltd, 24 Sturdee Avenue, Rosebank 2196, South Africa

  Penguin Books Ltd, Registered Offices: 80 Strand, London WC2R 0RL

  First published by Hamish Hamilton, 2005

  First Electronic edition, 2005

  Copyright © Zadie Smith, 2002

  Illustrations copyright © Roderick Mills, 2002

  The moral right of the author has been asserted

  The publisher would like to thank the following for permission to reproduce the following copyright material:

  Faber and Faber Ltd for the extracts from ‘The Last Saturday in Ulster’, ‘Imperial’ and ‘On Beauty’ from the collection To a Fault by Nick Laird; Gerald Duckworth & Co. Ltd for the extract from On Beauty and Being Just by Elaine Scarry; the Random House Group Ltd for the extract from School of the Arts by Mark Doty, published by Jonathan Cape; Saja Music Co. and Sony/ATV Music Publishing Ltd for the extract from ‘I Get Around’, words and music by Shirley Murdock/ Larry Troutman/Roger Troutman, copyright © 1993. Saja Music Co. and Sony/ATV Music Publishing Ltd

  Every effort has been made to trace copyright holders, and we apologize for any unintentional omission

  All rights reserved.The author would particularly like to acknowledge the importance of Leon Wiesetier’s wise and poetic memoir, Kaddish

  Making or distributing electronic copies of this book constitutes copyright infringement and could subject the infringer to civil and/or criminal liability, where applicable. No part of this book may be reproduced by any means without the prior written permission of the publisher.

  ISBN 978-1-1012-1811-2

  www.penguin.com

  ABOUT THE AUTHOR

  Zadie Smith was born in north-west London in 1975 and continues to live in the area. On Beauty is her third novel. Her first book, White Teeth (also available as an ePenguin ebook), was the winner of the Whitbread First Novel Award, the James Tait Black Memorial Prize for Fiction and the Commonwealth Writers’ First Book Award.

  For my dear Laird

  acknowledgements

  My gratitude to my first readers, Nick Laird, Jessica Frazier, Tamara Barnett-Herrin, Michal Shavit, David O’Rourke, Yvonne Bailey-Smith and Lee Klein. Their encouragement, criticism and good advice got the thing started. Thank you to Harvey and Yvonne for their support and to my younger brothers, Doc Brown and Luc Skyz, who offer advice on all the things I am too old to know. Thank you to my ex-student Jacob Kramer for notes on college life and East Coast mores. Thank you to India Knight and Elisabeth Merriman for all the French. Thank you to Cassandra King and Alex Adamson for dealing with all extra-literary matters.

  I thank Beatrice Monti for another stay at Santa Maddelena and the good work that came out of it. Thank you to my English and American editors, Simon Prosser and Anne Godoff, without whom this book would be longer and worse. Thank you to Donna Poppy, the cleverest copy editor a girl could hope for. Thank you to Juliette Mitchell at Penguin for all her hard work on my behalf. Without my agent, Georgia Garrett, I couldn’t do this job at all. Thank you, George. You’re a bobby dazzler.

  Thank you to Simon Schama for his monumental Rembrandt’s Eyes, a book that helped me to see paintings properly for the first time. Thank you to Elaine Scarry for her wonderful essay ‘On Beauty and Being Just’, from which I borrowed a title, a chapter heading and a good deal of inspiration. It should be obvious from the first line that this is a novel inspired by a love of E. M. Forster, to whom all my fiction is indebted, one way or the other. This time I wanted to repay the debt with hommage.

  Most of all, I thank my husband, whose poetry I steal to make my prose look pretty. It’s Nick who knows that ‘time is how you spend your love’, and that’s why this book is dedicated to him, as is my life.

  kipps and belsey

  We refuse to be each other.

  H. J. Blackham

  1

  One may as well begin with Jerome’s e-mails to his father:

  To: [email protected]

  From: [email protected]

  Date: 5 November

  Subject:

  Hey, Dad – basically I’m just going to keep on keeping on with these mails – I’m no longer expecting you to reply, but I’m still hoping you will, if that makes sense.

  Well, I’m really enjoying everything. I work in Monty Kipps’s own office (did you know that he’s actually Sir Monty??), which is in the Green Park area. It’s me and a Cornish girl called Emily. She’s cool. There’re also three more yank interns downstairs (one from Boston!), so I feel pretty much at home. I’m a kind of an intern with the duties of a PA – organizing lunches, filing, talking to people on the phone, that sort of thing. Monty’s work is much more than just the academic stuff: he’s involved with the Race Commission, and he has Church charities in Barbados, Jamaica, Haiti, etc. – he keeps me really busy. Because it’s such a small set-up, I get to work closely with him – and of course I’m living with the family now, which is like being completely integrated into something new. Ah, the family. You didn’t respond, so I’m imagining your reaction (not too hard to imagine . . .). The truth is, it was really just the most convenient option at the time. And they were totally kind to offer – I was being evicted from the ‘bedsit’ place in Marylebone. The Kippses aren’t under any obligation to me, but they asked and I accepted – gratefully. I’ve been in their place a week now, and still no mention of any rent, which should tell you something. I know you want me to tell you it’s a nightmare, but I can’t – I love living here. It’s a different universe. The house is just wow – early Victorian, a ‘terrace’ – unassuming-looking outside but massive inside – but there’s still a kind of humility that really appeals to me – almost everything white, and a lot of handmade things, and quilts and dark wood shelves and cornices and this four-storey staircase – and in the whole place there’s only one television, which is in the basement anyway, just so Monty can keep abreast of news stuff, and some of the things he does on the television – but that’s it. I think of it as the negativized image of our house sometimes . . . It’s in this bit of North London called ‘Kilburn’, which sounds bucolic, but boy oh boy is not bucolic in the least, except for this street we live on off the