Published in "The Willesden Herald":
Novelist Zadie Smith, who has received a number of awards including the Whitbread First Novel award for White Teeth and the Orange Prize for Fiction for On Beauty, has caused a stir in the blogosphere and the mainstream media with a blistering attack on literary prizes. Writing in the Willesden Herald's blog she says that most literary prizes are "only nominally" about literature and are "really about brand consolidation for beer companies, phone companies, coffee companies and even frozen food companies." Her comments were written in the context of the Willesden Herald's judges decision to cancel their annual award (after short-listing the top 10 stories) because the general standard of submissions was not considered high enough to award the prize. Says Smith, "Just because this prize has the words Willesden and Zadie hovering by it, does not mean that I or the other judges want to read hundreds of jolly stories of multicultural life on the streets of north London."
Okay, thank you, Zadie for your opinion. Opinions are always appreciated, however I don't know how seriously I can take yours on this subject.
It's long been known that literary prizes are politically motivated, given to substandard literature, or yes, "only nominally" about literature, itself. But Zadie, where were you when those committees awarded you your prizes? Out collecting them, of course, no doubt in the hopes of furthering your career, which you did. I didn't want to read a story of multicultural life on the streets of North London when you wrote White Teeth.
Personally, Zadie's comments would carry a lot more weight had she realized what we all know is (mostly) true and not accepted all those "nominally literary" prizes.
You may feel differently, but I found her remarks to be hypocritical.