Winner of multiple awards, writer Zadie Smith says he is “excited” ahead of the game’s world debut.
But the writer told that his conversations in Britain were “funny” with Willesden’s play, which premiered Wednesday.
Smith adapted the story of Bath’s wife from Geoffrey Chaucer’s The Canterbury Tales, translating a 14th-century text, written in a rhythmic style, into a modern tale set in North West London, where she was born and worked.
He is the author of five magazines, including the White Teeth Prize, on much of postwar British culture.
His third novel, On Beauty, won the Orange Award for Fairy Tale. He has also written many books and children’s books.
But at 46, writing games is nothing new. The author says it is “a little bit bigger”.
“I’ve spent a lot of time working on myself and judging myself, so I’m not a great player,” he said. “I have some kind of allergy to work.”
Anyway, he said it was great “not having the same brain in the room”.
“It could be depressing, 20 years in the writing room,” he explained.
So, working with the actor and 10 CEOs, Indhu Rubasingham acts as a “life force,” he said. “I’m happy to have a team”.
“It’s nice to see people interact with each other,” he said, and it was “humble” to see them live up to his word on stage.
But the game came suddenly. Smith described it as “bad news, emergency travel”.
When Brent expressed support for him at the 2020 London Cultural Forum, Smith happily agreed to attend. “I don’t think Brent will win right away,” he admitted.
But he did, and under the growing pressure to think (“a little heavy”) and for fear of growing up, Smith looked into his library and saw the book Canterbury Tales.
During this time, he suggested translating a short-page monologue from Bath’s Tale, “Because that’s what everyone remembers”, which could be published in a local magazine.
However, while she was flying to Australia, a newspaper was launched claiming to have translated the entire language of Bath’s wife into a joke.
Smith was disappointed, to say the least. “But when it was some kind of ether, I felt like I had to.”
But now, looking back on the project, he believes it was a “gift”.
“As soon as I got the shock and stopped trying to get out of the situation, all sorts of useful things came out of it.”
He liked to write games with “homework”, observing: “I take homework very well.”
Smith Chaucer translated it into modern English when he was a student at Cambridge University.
“Space is sharper than I’ve ever interacted with on a blank page. I usually have Chaucer’s hands, which is great. They’re the best hands you can expect.”
The Canterbury Story is a collection of twenty-four stories told by a group of pilgrims on their journey from London to Canterbury Cathedral.
One of the pilgrims is called Alyson, or the wife of the bath. Early in his story about her, she reveals that she has been married five times and shares his views on sex, religion, and contempt for the class privilege.
Willesden’s wife investigates the status of women in society and tells the story of Alvita, a Jamaican born in Britain in the mid-1950s and married several times. She is associated with misery, shame, and domestic violence.
“They were really at the beginning,” says Smith. “I thought Chaucer was great. I think people have forgotten what was there.
“Even when I was moving it, I thought, I couldn’t tell. But then I thought, well, if it was said 600 years ago, if they could take it back then, they could build it now.
“This is very serious. This is very offensive. This is very serious. I thought you would call it fair sex. It is a thing without a doubt.”
Although he likes working with Willesden’s wife, Smith doesn’t think he will write another game unless he has a “great idea”.
“First game, maybe last game”, he laughed. “I admire the real writers who follow him.”