White Teeth – Zadie Smith – Quotes

This is what divorce is: taking things you no longer want from people you no longer love.

…traditionally the Dickinson-Smith were insatiable in their desire to see Dickinson-Smith blood spilled on foreign soil. And on the occasions when there wasn’t a war the Dickinson-Smiths busied themselves with the Irish Situation, a kind of Dickinson-Smith holiday resort of death, which has been going on since 1600 and showed no sign of letting up.

In short, it was precisely the kind of friendship that Englishman makes on holiday, that he can make only on holiday. A friendship that crosses class and colour, a friendship that takes as its basis physical proximity and survives because the Englishman assumes the physical proximity will not continue.

O’Connell’s is the kind of place family men come to for a different kind of family. Unlike blood relations, it is necessary here to earn one’s position in the community; it takes years of devoted fucking around, time-wasting, laying-about, shooting the breeze, watching paint dry – far more dedication than men invest in the careless moment of procreation. You need to know the place. For example, there are reasons why O’Connell’s is an Irish pool house run by Arabs with no pool tables.

This has been the century of strangers, brown, yellow and white. This has been the century of the great immigrant experiment. It is only this late in the day that you think you can walk into a playground and find Isaac Leung by the fish pond, Danny Rahman in the football cage, Quang O’Rourke bouncing a basketball, and Irie Jones humming a tune. Children with first and last name on a direct collision course.

Because homeland is one of the magical fantasy words like unicorn and soul and infinity that have now passed into the language.

These days, it feels to me like you make a devil’s pact when you walk into this country. You hand over your passport at the check-in, you get stamped, you want to make a little money, get yourself started…but you mean to go back! Who would want to stay? Cold, wet, miserable; terrible food, dreadful newspapers – who would want to stay? In a place where you are never welcomed, only tolerated. Just tolerated. Like oyu are an animal finally house-trained. Who would want to stay? But you have made a devil’s pact…it drags you in and suddenly you are unsuitable to return, your children are unrecognizable, you belong nowhere.

A neutral place. The chances of finding one these days are slim, maybe even slimmer than Archie’s pinball trick. The sheer quantity of shit that must be wiped off the slate if we are to start again as new. Race. Land. Ownership. Faith. Theft. Blood. And more blood. And more. 

We are so convinced of the goodness of ourselves, and the goodness of our love, we cannot bear to believe that there may be something more worthy of love than us, more worthy of worship. Greetings cards routinely tell us everybody deserves love. No. Everybody deserves clean water. Not everybody deserves love all the time.

Photo by Violetta Kaszubowska

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