Zadie Smith's 'White Teeth' to be four-part TV drama

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The literary sensation of 2000, Zadie Smith's White Teeth, is to be made into a four-part television drama due to be screened next year, Channel 4 said yesterday.

Production is due to start in February on a four-hour television version of the book, a tale of multicultural life in London and the most talked-about debut novel of last year.

Most of the 10 weeks of filming is expected to take place in the north-western suburbs of Willesden and Cricklewood, where the novel is set, with other scenes filmed in the Caribbean and India. It is expected to be screened in the autumn.

The book tells the story of two families through three generations and tries to define Britain at the turn of the century.

Tessa Ross, head of drama for Channel 4, said: "White Teeth is clever, funny, passionate and ebullient and I am delighted that we are bringing it to the screen. It's a masterly piece of contemporary story-telling that we think will have broad appeal."

The cast is yet to be announced, but a Channel 4 spokeswoman said: "They're looking for a mix of established names and new talent."

The book has been adapted for television by Simon Burke, whose previous credits include Tom Jones for the BBC.

It will be made by Company Television and directed by Julian Jarrold.

Channel 4 declined to reveal how much Smith had been paid for the television rights to her book.

Attention has focused on Smith since she netted a huge advance from Penguin for a two-book deal while she was still at Cambridge University.

White Teeth was described by critics as a "fictional phenomenon" for its coverage of race, genetics and multiculturalism but failed to make the Booker prize shortlist.

She made it on to the shortlist of the Whitbread first novel prize, but did not win. However, she was voted best new talent in the WH Smith Book Awards, and secured the Best First Book award at the Commonwealth Writers awards. She also won the Betty Trask Award for an author aged under 35.

Despite her success, she was realistic about the qualities of her first novel. "As long as I think [White Teeth] is fairly rubbish, then I know I can carry on writing better things," she said.

Smith is working on her second novel.