UCL News


British literature offers few answers to July 7

15 August 2005

Immigrants' lives in modern Britain have been chronicled in abundance in a string of recent novels.

But have books like 'White Teeth' by Zadie Smith and 'Brick Lane' by Monica Ali captured correctly or even touched upon the forces that produced the London bombers of July 7 and the attackers of July 21? … "Both of these books celebrate the idea of multicultural London," said Dr Kasia Boddy, [UCL Department of English Language & Literature], a lecturer in contemporary fiction. … 'They are about the joys of multiculturalism.' The fact that they were bestsellers suggests that these are the kind of positive stories about immigration that the audiences they are written for want to read. The British book-buying public, and, more widely, the Western one, want to be told that assimilation or multiculturalism works, Boddy said. Two other chroniclers of the immigrant experience, Salman Rushdie and V S Naipaul, describe this positive yearning for the new homeland. Rushdie, according to Boddy, distinguishes between 'proper London,' iconic sites like Big Ben or King's Cross that his characters want to visit, and 'improper London,' the mundane suburbs where they actually have to live.

Graham Bowley, 'International Herald Tribune'