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The Embassy of Cambodia

The Embassy of Cambodia 1

by Zadie Smith
Publication Date: 07/11/2013
4/5 Rating 1 Reviews
A rare and brilliant story from Zadie Smith, taking us deep into the life of a young woman, Fatou, domestic servant to the Derawals and escapee from one set of hardships to another. Beginning and ending outside the Embassy of Cambodia, which happens to be located in Willesden, NW London, Zadie Smith's absorbing, moving and wryly observed story suggests how the apparently small things in an ordinary life always raise larger, more extraordinary questions. 'It's scale is superficially small, but its range is lightly immense; in the first couple of pages, the world from Ghana to London to Cambodia enters. It is a fiction of consequences both global and heartrenchingly intimate. This voice is global, plural and local, with a delicate grip on historic consequences...... Works on an awesomely global scale, and the relations of slavery and mastership are traced in both personal and international scale.' Philip Hensher, The Guardian 'Reading it is a bit like having a starter in a restaurant that is so good you wish you had ordered a big portion as a main course, only to realise, as you finish it, that it was exactly the right amount.' 'A perfect stocking-filler of a book that shows that short-form fiction can be as vibrant and as healthy as any densely realised full-length novel.' Louise Doughty, The Observer 'Smith serves up a smasher.' Leyla Sanai, The Independent On Sunday
Contemporary fiction
Publication Date:
Penguin Books Ltd
Country of origin:
United Kingdom
Dimensions (mm):
Zadie Smith

Zadie Smith is the author of the novels White Teeth, The Autograph Man, On Beauty and NW, as well as The Embassy of Cambodia and a collection of essays, Changing My Mind.

She is a fellow of the Royal Society of Literature and has twice been listed as one of Granta's 20 Best Young British Novelists.

She has won the Orange Prize for Fiction, the Whitbread First Novel Award and the Guardian First Book Award among many others, and been shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize and the Baileys Women's Prize for Fiction.

Zadie Smith lives in London and New York with her husband and two children. Swing Time is her fifth novel.

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4 / 5 (1 Ratings)
  • his little tale leaves the reader wanting more

    by on

    The Embassy of Cambodia is a short story by British author, Zadie Smith. Fatou’s passage out of Ivory Coast, via Ghana and Libya, included a sojourn in Italy before she landed a job with the Derewals in NW London. While they withhold her passport and her wages, and she is certainly is not well treated, her not-quite-slavery does allow her a certain amount of freedom.

    The Derewals live in Willesden, and her freedom includes being able to attend church with her friend Andrew Okonkwo on Sundays, and going swimming on Mondays. Her trip to the pool, undertaken without her employers’ knowledge, takes her past the Embassy of Cambodia, where a game of badminton is always in progress. And then, one tiny incident changes everything for Fatou.

    In twenty-one very short chapters, the narrative from Fatou’s perspective is interspersed with commentary by an anonymous Willesden resident. Within her succinct prose, Smith touches on issues topical and timeless: cruelty and inequality, the plight of refugees, prosperity and poverty, dependence and independence. This little tale leaves the reader wanting more.