Zadie Smith, 2000
Penguin, ebook kindle
White Teeth is a story about two families of immigrants to the United Kingdom. These two families are linked through the friendship between Samad Iqbal, a Bangladeshi who works as a waiter, and Archie Jones, an Englishman who works folding paper. They first met during the WWII in the Eastern Europe, and resumed their friendship when Samad moved to London, in the mid seventies. Following their friendship, we get to know about their respective wives, Alsana and Clara, and children, the twins Millat and Magid and Irie. The story is focused in several aspects of their lives, but always regarding their worries and angsts. All of them suffer, in way way or another: love, roots, place on earth, meaningless lifes...
White Teeth is a very ambitious novel, because it explores very complex situations and attitudes, most of them related to immigration and the way it affects people, specially the difficult to identify your own roots and to know your place on earth. The novel is located in Willesden, and it plays with the idea that when you are an immigrant you loose your place on earth, because your are neither from you were born or from you are living at that moment. This idea is personified in Samad Iqbal, a man who thinks that he deserves a better place of earth, partly because he is the descedant of a secondary hero of the Indian independence partly because he sees himself as a good muslim.
But the lack of roots due to immigration is just one of the problems Zadie Smith treats in the book. Another one is the difficult of communication: between generations, between genres, between social classes... This lack of communication is quite evident between the two couples; in the case of the Iqbals it adopts the form of an open hostility, and in the case of the Joneses it adopts the form of a polite lack of interest in each other.
Love. Love is always a troubling matter. In the novel, the one troubled with love is Irie Jones, who is secretly in love with Millat Iqbal but is incapable of attracting him to her...
White Teeth is a really complex novel, not because of its structure or the language it uses, but because of the multiple aspects of human nature it talks about. In addition to those that we have already talked about, it talks about integrism, racism, infidelity and many others. Despite the thematic complexity, it is an easy reading novel, funny and amusing. Totally recommended.