Between Forster and Gilroy: Race and (Re)connection in Zadie Smith’s NW

Jesse van Amelsvoort, University of Groningen
Vol. 37, No. 2 (Fall 2018), 419-434

This article interprets Zadie Smith’s novel NW (2012) as an attempt to link E. M. Forster’s famous dictum “only connect” with Paul Gilroy’s concept of “conviviality.” NW’s representation of two friends who are constituted by boundaries of class, race, and ethnicity but who also contest those limits points to the difficulties faced by many contemporary European minorities. In NW, the idea of race collaborates with that of ethnicity and class to form a strongly racialized logic through which the immigrant’s upward mobility is subtly yet decisively affected. NW suggests that Gilroy’s convivial society is only possible with Forsterian, interpersonal connections. Only after Leah and Natalie, the novel’s central characters, rekindle their friendship, can they set in motion the novel’s closing act of justice.

Mary Wollstonecraft Sojourner Truth Margaret Atwood Abigail Adams Amy Tan H.D. Simone de Beauvoir Zora Neale Hurston Frances Burney Virginia Woolf

"The white saxifrage with the indented leafe is moste commended for the breakinge of the Stone."

— Turner, Herbal, III, 68 [1568]