Swing Time: Zadie Smith’s narrative of belonging
The title of Zadie Smith’s novel, Swing Time, refers not so much to the epoch it describes, but to the temper, pace, and flow of its narrative. Like swing music, it waves through decades, countries, and social classes to reveal unexpected interrelations between parties, considered to be so different.
The novel tells the story of an unnamed black girl from a middle-class family, who breaks the social barriers, securing a place in college and making a stellar career as the PA of popular singer, Aimee. However, the last bit receives the least space on the pages, and you should not expect to get the insider look into the celebrity world. The narrator speaks very little of this work, mainly referencing to all the pleasures of this life in the past tense, becoming quickly used to and tired of them. It’s in no way a success story. And it’s neither a coming-of-age story, though a solid part of the book is dedicated to the narrator’s reflection on joys and sorrows of grown-up life.
The ones who look successful turn out to be broken and hopeless
Rather seeking is the main theme of the novel. Seeking for our place in the world, and the right purpose of human life, and the universal way to gain happiness. Desire to find the only true answer to these challenges takes the main character through different places and social orders, sky-rocketing her life from miserable London suburbs into the endless world tour with the iconic singer, and then crushing her into the small village in Gambia, where poverty is the essence of life. Everything turns out to be relative in Zadie Smith’s world. The ones, who look successful, turn out to be broken and hopeless. The others, who gain whatever they want and seem to find a balance between family, work, and hobbies, are living in their own illusions. And the last, who burned under routine of their desperate lives, actually find the real existential pleasure.
Drama, social commentary, and philosophical essay, – Swing Time twists all genres in a genuine narrative about the essence of happiness and self-realization.
Everyone needs to belong somewhere, says Zadie Smith with this novel. The only problem with it, however, that it is often so difficult to discover, where we really relate to.
Beat the Autumn Blues and let this novel whirl you in the dance of life!