The novella The Embassy of Cambodia by Zadie Smith begins with a description of the Cambodian embassy in Willesden, an area of North West London. The embassy building is a suburban villa next to a health center. It has a high fence over the top of which a shuttlecock can be seen flying back and forth as people play badminton.
Fatou, an immigrant woman from the Ivory Coast, walks past the embassy on her way to the pool. Fatou works as a live-in housekeeper for the Derawals, a family with three children. Fatou secretly uses the Derawals’ guest passes to the health center to go to the pool while her employers are away for work. Every time she passes by the embassy, she stops to watch the shuttlecock.
One day, Fatou reads an article about a Sudanese “slave” working for a...