A new book from the novelist and former Today programme guest editor Zadie Smith is out this week.
It is called NW and is described as a tragi-comic tale set in north-west London.
Speaking to Mariella Frostrup, the author said se believes English literature is "peculiar in being quite fixated on the past".
On the subject of race in novels, she said that it is very difficult to get readers "to see that people of colour are not strange or exotic in themselves or to themselves".
"Readers are so set on this idea that the only neutral character is a white character," she said.
You can hear a the full interview with Zadie Smith on Open Book this Sunday at 4pm on Radio 4.
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