By calling her newest novel NW, Zadie Smith follows in the tradition of other writers, including Mary Gaskell, George Eliot, and Winifred Holtby, who have named the work after the setting. Like its predecessors, NW is an ensemble novel that explores human nature through a microcosm of the world, a technique that has historically appealed to women writers. Jane Austen famously said her work, containable on a “little bit (two inches wide) of Ivory,” was about “four or five families in a country village.”
In 2008 Roberto Bolaño’s 900-page epic 2666 was published. Appearing out of relative obscurity, Bolaño’s novel was soon being discussed as a potential masterpiece and, perhaps more importantly, sustained steady popularity in the bookshops. Sadly though, Bolaño saw none of this: he died only a few months after the first draft was completed and nearly 6 years before the English publication.