Hanif Kureishi 1954-
British dramatist, novelist, screenwriter, essayist, and short story writer.
The following entry presents an overview of Kureishi's career through 1999. For further information on his life and works, see CLC, Volume 64.
With the critical success of his screenplay for My Beautiful Laundrette (1986), Hanif Kureishi emerged as a provocative young chronicler of xenophobia, sexuality, and urban adolescent angst in contemporary Britain. His multi-genre creations—including films, novels, short stories, and plays—are largely informed by his own experiences as an English-born Briton of Pakistani descent. Drawing attention to the problem of racial prejudice and cultural displacement among non-white Asians in modern England, Kureishi's darkly comic critiques of postcolonial British society illustrate the confluence and conflicts of ethnicity, sexuality, religion, and class. With London's hedonistic drug and music subculture as a recurring milieu, Kureishi's fiction and films are permeated with references to pop culture trends, fashions, movies, and music, as well as other literary and cultural markers. His multicultural perspective and casts of disparate, unconventional characters underscore the sociopolitical biases and personal ambiguities that shape one's identity in the modern Western world.
Kureishi was born on December 5, 1954 (some sources say 1956), in the London suburb of Bromley. His Pakistani father, a clerk and political journalist, arrived in England from Pakistan to attend college, and subsequently met Kureishi's white, English mother. During the 1950s and 1960s, England received its first great influx of black and Asian immigrants, and at school Kureishi experienced a backlash of racism from some of the native English. As a teenager, he found an outlet for his emotions in fiction, writing four unpublished novels. He went on to study philosophy at King's College, London. As an apprentice in London theaters, Kureishi spent his time devising plays and, to supplement his income, writing pornography for magazines (under the pseudonym Antonia French). His first play, Soaking Up the Heat (1976), was produced at London's Theatre Upstairs, followed by The Mother Country (1980) at Riverside Studios, for which Kureishi received the Thames Television Playwright award. Kureishi was appointed a writer in residence at the Royal Court Theatre, which produced his play Borderline (1981). During a 1985 trip to Pakistan to visit relatives, Kureishi not only gained insight into Pakistani culture and the experiences of Pakistani immigrants, but also came to accept the English aspect of his identity. The following year My Beautiful Laundrette premiered. Directed by Stephen Frears, the movie was originally made for British television and later released for the theater. Kureishi received several major awards for his contribution, including a Best Screenplay Award from the New York Film Critics Circle and an Academy Award nomination. Kureishi and Frears continued their partnership with Sammy and Rosie Get Laid (1987), before Kureishi took over the directorial duties himself to make London Kills Me (1991), a film based on his screenplay. In between these film productions, Kureishi published his first novel, The Buddha of Suburbia (1990), which received a Whitbread Book of the Year Award. He has since written two additional novels and two collections of short stories, and co-edited The Faber Book of Pop (1995).
Kureishi's preoccupation with issues such as race, class, and sexuality pervade his plays, motion pictures, and fiction. For his early play Borderline, Kureishi conducted research in the Southall area of London, interviewing Indian and Pakistani immigrants. The drama looks at the situation of these immigrants in post-imperial Britain, examining the conflicts between both immigrants and the native population and immigrants and their Westernized children. The drama Outskirts (1981) focuses on the lives of two former school friends, Del and Bob. As teenagers, they assaulted an Asian immigrant, an incident that still haunts Del, who has since become a teacher. Bob is unemployed and his prejudices lead him toward the racist National Front. Kureishi's screenplay for My Beautiful Laundrette is similar to a drama in its construction. The film's story explores cross-generational tensions within immigrant families, racial violence, and unemployment in Britain under the conservative prime minister Margaret Thatcher. The film's protagonist, Omar, is the son of a Pakistani immigrant who was once a respected journalist in his home country but is now an unemployed alcoholic in Thatcherite Britain. Although his father wants him to attend college, Omar accepts a job with his capitalistic uncle Nasser, who has him take over a failing laundromat, or laundrette. Using stolen drug money to finance the project, Omar renovates the laundrette with the aid of Johnny, a punk who forsakes his friends for the work and love offered by Omar. In addition to its frank portrayal of homosexuality, the film also candidly depicts Nasser's adulterous relationship and the promiscuity of Nasser's independent-minded daughter. Kureishi's next screenplay, Sammy and Rosie Get Laid, describes the events that occur after Rafi Rahman, a corrupt Pakistani political figure, arrives in London to live with his son, Sammy, an accountant who resides in the racially violent area of Brixton with his wife, Rosie, an English social worker. The author's third script, London Kills Me, considers the world of homelessness and drugs in late twentieth-century London through the experiences of Clint, a squatter who must find a pair of stylish shoes to get a job as a waiter. The script was subsequently published along with the screenplays for My Beautiful Laundrette and Sammy and Rosie Get Laid and introductory essays for each. Another screenplay, My Son the Fanatic (1997), was turned into a film by director Udayan Prasad. The film's story depicts the life of a Pakistani-immigrant cab driver whose son becomes attracted to Islamic fundamentalism. Kureishi's largely autobiographical first novel, The Buddha of Suburbia, focuses on Karim Amir, the son of an Indian immigrant in Britain. Karim leaves the boredom of his school days in Kent to join the acting worlds of 1970s London and New York. Karim's father, a civil servant, exaggerates his Indian mannerisms when he takes on the role of spiritual leader in his neighborhood. Similarly, Karim invents an Indian past for himself to achieve success as an actor. The novel The Black Album (1995) takes its name from an album by American pop musician Prince, who titled his album in reference to the Beatles record known as “The White Album.” The story's protagonist, Shahid Hasan, a new student at a college in London, finds himself divided between the cultures represented by his black Muslim friends and his white liberal lover, a cultural-studies lecturer at the college. The novel Intimacy (1998), is narrated by Jay, a screenwriter who decides to leave his partner and children for another woman. Love in a Blue Time (1997), Kureishi's first collection of short stories, considers not only the author's usual concerns, such as the conflict between cultures, but also the effect of aging on ambition. With his second short-story collection, Midnight All Day (1999), Kureishi took up issues involving emotional relationships, as he did in Intimacy. Kureishi has also served as co-editor, with Jon Savage, of The Faber Book of Pop, an anthology of essays, reviews, and interviews that chronicles the evolution of pop music from the 1950s to present.
Kureishi is well regarded for his perceptive examinations of race, class, and sexuality in postcolonial Britain. His award-winning screenplay for My Beautiful Laundrette was both a critical and popular success, and established his international reputation. While Indian and Pakistani groups rebuked the film for its unflattering representation of their communities, critics lauded the movie for its unflinching portrayal of the lives of immigrants in London as well as for offering complex portraits of its characters. Kureishi's subsequent films, however, have not received the same level of recognition. Sammy and Rosie Get Laid was commended for its depiction of interracial relationships, but faulted for an overly ambitious combination of dramatic and political intentions. London Kills Me, Kureishi's directorial debut, was generally dismissed as a series of unfocused character studies and music montages. My Son the Fanatic, in contrast, received praise for its consideration of race relations and its presentation of the inner life of its cab-driver protagonist. Kureishi has received a similar mixed response to his novels and short stories. While appreciated for its multicultural perspective and satire, Kureishi's fiction has been faulted as superficially concerned with pop culture and gratuitous in its depictions of sexual debauchery and unredeeming nihilism. While some critics faulted The Buddha of Suburbia for its failure to treat its several controversial issues successfully, other reviewers commended the novel for its account of the young protagonist's experiences and its depiction of a racially mixed family. Kureishi did not fare as well, however, with the critics of his next two novels. The Black Album was found to be more like a play than a novel and deficient in its ambitious consideration of race and Muslim fundamentalism. The reaction to his overtly autobiographical novel Intimacy was even more hostile, with some critics accusing Kureishi of misogyny and even railing against him for abandoning his children during his real-life breakup. Other critics, however, regarded the novel as an elegant and complex study of love's disintegration. Although Kureishi's short-story collections have not created an impact comparable to his work in other genres, Love in a Blue Time received approval for its exploration of aging and Midnight All Day earned praise for its treatment of emotional ties. In contrast, his editorial contribution to The Faber Book of Pop met with unfavorable reaction, criticized by reviewers as being disorganized and overly long. While the critical and popular enthusiasm that surrounded the debut of My Beautiful Laundrette has yet to be duplicated by the author's other writings, Kureishi has consistently provided a unique perspective on the physical and emotional circumstances of individuals on the fringes of contemporary British society.
Soaking Up the Heat (drama) 1976
The King and Me (drama) 1980
The Mother Country (drama) 1980
Borderline (drama) 1981
Cinders [adapted from a play by Janusz Glowacki] (drama) 1981
Outskirts (drama) 1981
Tomorrow—Today! (drama) 1981
Birds of Passage (novel) 1983
Outskirts, The King and Me, Tomorrow—Today! (drama) 1983
Mother Courage [adapted from a play by Bertolt Brecht] (drama) 1984
My Beautiful Laundrette (screenplay) 1986
My Beautiful Laundrette and The Rainbow Sign (screenplay and essay) 1986
Sammy and Rosie Get Laid (screenplay) 1987
Sammy and Rosie Get Laid: The Script and the Diary (screenplay) 1988
The Buddha of Suburbia (novel) 1990
London Kills Me (screenplay) 1991
London Kills Me: Three Screenplays and Four Essays (screenplays and essays) 1992
Outskirts and Other Plays (drama) 1992
The Black Album (novel) 1995
The Faber Book of Pop [editor; with Jon Savage] (essay) 1995
Love in a Blue Time (short stories) 1997
My Son the...
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SOURCE: “Getting by on Charm: A Young Anglo-Indian in 1970s London,” in Chicago Tribune Books, April 29, 1990, p. 6.
[In the following review, Idema describes The Buddha of Suburbia as a “polemical novel … whose trenchant views on racial injustice and class antagonisms impart outrage. …”]
This crowded, picaresque first novel about the adventures of a young Anglo-Indian in the mean streets of London during the 1970s, where “the spirit of the age among the people I knew manifested itself as general drift and idleness,” may put you in mind of the movies My Beautiful Laundrette and Sammy and Rosie Get Laid, because Hanif Kureishi, author of The Buddha of Suburbia, is also the author of their screenplays. But even without that knowledge, The Buddha of Suburbia would seem stunningly cinematographic. Scenes leap from the page, as this, in a West Kensington punk rock club:
(A)t the front of the place, near the stage, there were about thirty kids in ripped black clothes. And the clothes were full of safety pins. Their hair was uniformly black, and cut short, seriously short, or if long it was spiky and rigid, sticking up and out and sideways, like a handful of needles, rather than hanging down. A hurricane would not have dislodged those styles. The girls were in rubber and leather and wore skin-tight skirts and holed black...
(The entire section is 787 words.)
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SOURCE: “A Dead Teenage Genius and Others,” in The Spectator, May 12, 1990, pp. 38-9.
[In the following negative review of The Buddha of Suburbia, Clark describes Kureishi as “a man with a sense of adventure that extends little further than experimentation in metropolitan sex and drugs.”]
After writing one homosexual screenplay, My Beautiful Launderette, and one heterosexual screenplay, Sammy and Rosie Get Laid, it was a fair guess that Hanif Kureishi was going to turn the hero of his first novel into a raving bisexual. Mr Kureishi is a man with a sense of adventure that extends little further than experimentation in metropolitan sex and drugs. He recently gained fame as the Radio Four guest who unthinkingly announced that he found the Great London Poll Tax Riot ‘terrific’—if it was so ‘terrific’ then how come all the broken glass had been swept up by Sunday afternoon, 24 hours later? There is only one explanation: that Mr Kureishi is a half-hearted adventurer who rather appreciates his middle-class home.
His character, Karim Amir, is no different, and whiles his way through a 1970s South London adolescence, taking drugs and grabbing the genitals of his father’s girlfriend’s son Charlie. At one point Karim appears to be a great Who fan, but Mr Kureishi, the man who has brought Hackney writing to Chislehurst, is talking not so much about...
(The entire section is 289 words.)
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SOURCE: “E Pluribus England,” in Los Angeles Times Book Review, June 3, 1990, pp. 3, 10.
[In the following review of The Buddha of Suburbia, Eder commends Kureishi's Third World perspective, although finds weakness in the later sections of the novel.]
“My name is Karim Amir, and I am an Englishman born and bred, almost.”
It is a start worthy of Dickens; one of those bagpipe sentences whose skirl heralds the book to come, and whose bumpy drone nourishes it as it goes along. The Buddha of Suburbia is London subverted—notice that “almost”—by reality.
There is London as idea: St. Paul’s, sweet Thames, the Changing of the Guard, the National Theater, helmeted bobbies, bowler hats, bespoke tailoring, Big Ben, Bow bells, Pearly Queens and the lot. And there is London of those who came, in one way or another, because of the first London; and who put a mosque at Regents Park; kohl, dall, funny smells and funny accents in Southall; and Caribbean markets and unemployed anger in Brixton.
Hanif Kureishi, author of the film My Beautiful Laundrette again shows us England and her Third World, this time in a novel. He writes of Indian shopkeepers, punk groupies with spiked green hair, grandmothers in saris and their granddaughters hooked on Germaine Greer, soccer hoodlums, lords’ sons in Italian shoes and no socks, and...
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SOURCE: “Gland Illusion,” in The Nation, July 9, 1990, pp. 63-4.
[In the following review of The Buddha of Suburbia, Jiménez finds shortcomings in the novel's empty hedonism and unconvincing resolution.]
Karim Amir is squeezing a favorite penis (not his own) to Pink Floyd’s “Ummagumma.” He’s 17. In order to squeeze so, he’s forgone a dreaded chess club meeting and gone out with his father, Haroon, for a karmic night around town. Karim is no Janis Ian inventing lovers on the phone. As he will tell you, he’s from suburbia, South London, and going somewhere—to the real London, the asterisk, the inevitable tour of duty, and then, who knows? He’ll follow his dreams with an unquenchable sense of erection. Karim, you know, is the master of ocular desires, just as his Pop is the Buddha of Suburbia, addicted to yoga and Lu Po and Lao Tzu and lusty nights.
Hanif Kureishi (yes, My Beautiful Laundrette and Sammy and Rosie Get Laid) has crowded into less than 300 pages what might be called a novel but is rather a constant, furious, streaming 1970s circle-jerk that takes in Pakistanis, Indians, Englishmen and Americans as well. The initial cast of characters includes Charlie (Karim’s squeezing partner and a rock-superstar wannabe) and Charlie’s mother, Eva Kay, who doubles as Haroon’s lover. Both couples make love in the first seventeen...
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SOURCE: A review of The Buddha of Suburbia, in World Literature Today, Vol. 65, No. 2, Spring, 1991, p. 370.
[In the following mixed review, Rahman finds The Buddha of Suburbia “somewhat tedious to read,” but commends the author's realistic portrayal of the characters' “blighted lives.”]
Hanif Kureishi is well known for such compassionate plays on race relations as Birds of Passage (1983) and My Beautiful Laundrette (1986). The Buddha of Suburbia is his first novel, and though it features Asians living in England, it does not focus upon race relations except in passing. The main theme now is the confusion of values and loyalties in the mind of the protagonist, who is an adolescent boy when the novel begins. The boy, Karim Amir, who is also the narrator, is the product of a mixed marriage. The father is a Pakistani and the mother an English woman. The novel opens with the father moving away from his stay-at-home wife into the circle of fashionable people who ask him to teach them the mystic arts. At last he moves in with Eva, a beautiful woman, while Karim develops a frustrated carnal relationship with her equally good-looking son Charlie. The point seems to be the illicitness of both these relationships from the point of view of that set of moral values that favor the stability of human relationships in the form of the family and marriage. The novel ends with no...
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SOURCE: “The Sound of Silence,” in New Statesman & Society, December 13, 1991, pp. 30-1.
[In the following negative review, Romney asserts that London Kills Me “falls because it has precious little to say about characters who have precious little to say.”]
Hanif Kureishi’s London Kills Me is not a pop film as such, although you might expect it to be. The published script is accompanied by a eulogy to the Beatles, in which Kureishi is at pains to stress pop’s status as “the richest cultural form in postwar Britain”, and to locate writing in relation to that form: “It is pop that has spoken of ordinary experience with far more precision, real knowledge and wit than, say, British fiction of the equivalent period. And you can’t dance to fiction.”
With impressively recherché soundtrack credits and a grittily streetwise array of non-haircuts, you would expect the film—set among the drug dealing gangs of Notting Hill’s squatlands—to be a full-blooded attempt to tackle 1990s British youth culture. But it may be that Kureishi is more comfortable with a neatly historical phenomenon such as the Beatles than with the relatively uncontainable stuff that Charlie Gillett has compiled for the soundtrack—French, Moroccan and Pakistani music, House, reggae, and assorted dance hybrids.
The selection should induce cultural vertigo, but on...
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SOURCE: A review of London Kills Me, in World Literature Today, Vol. 66, No. 4, Autumn, 1992, p. 724.
[Below, Dasenbrock gives a mixed assessment of London Kills Me and Kureishi's writing in general.]
London Kills Me is a collection of three screenplays and four essays by one of the most visible young “Black British” writers, Hanif Kureishi. These include the screenplays of the two well-known films Kureishi wrote for Stephen Frears, My Beautiful Laundrette and Rosie and Sammy Get Laid, as well as the screenplay of the new film Kureishi directed himself which gives the volume its title. Each screenplay is introduced by a related essay, and I found I learned more about Kureishi and his work from the essays than from the screenplays, since the essays comment on the films and the process by which they were made, whereas the screenplays provide little more than a pale outline of the films they led to.
“The Rainbow Sign,” the essay framing My Beautiful Laundrette, is of particular interest, as it recounts Kureishi’s first trip to Pakistan. Kureishi in Pakistan sounds a good deal like V. S. Naipaul (to make a comparison that would probably please neither writer), finding there a vicious combination of servility toward Western culture and troglodytic calls for a return to Islamic purity. It is in Pakistan that Kureishi realizes his British...
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SOURCE: “Mirrorshades,” in New Statesman & Society, March 3, 1995, pp. 40-1.
[In the following review, Saynor offers tempered praise for The Black Album, finding shortcomings in Kureishi's lack of vision.]
According to Milan Kundera, “human life is bounded by two chasms: fanaticism on one side, absolute scepticism on the other”. For Hanif Kureishi, though, these giant goal-markers can be surprisingly close together. The protagonist of The Black Album, Kureishi’s second novel, is partly an insolent cynic, in common with most of the author’s young male heroes. But he’s also partly in thrall to hardline Islam—just at the moment when The Satanic Verses becomes, literally, a burning issue.
Like its predecessor, The Buddha of Suburbia, the novel is a comic and profane portrait of the artist as a young gun, set amid the clamour of semi-bankrupt, pseudo-progressive cultures on the streets of a clapped-out London. Shahid Hasan, born in Sevenoaks to a family of estate agents from Pakistan, is ephebic, self-effacing and highly corruptible. He wants to be a writer, and reveres the Great Art of the West, but finds little of this at the dilapidated London college where he takes a trashy humanities course.
Here, the postmodernistic whoring that passes for much of modern intellectual life is advanced by Andrew Brownlow, a former...
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SOURCE: “A Passion of a Vegetable Fashion,” in The Spectator, March 11, 1995, p. 33.
[In the following review, Horspool offers an unfavorable assessment of The Black Album, citing Kureishi's “talent for caricature” as weak.]
Shahid, the young hero of Hanif Kureishi’s second novel, spends most of his time trying to make his mind up. But the oddest choice he has to face is between his lecturer-lover and a sacred aubergine, which has been written on by Allah (‘it’s me or the enchanted eggplant’, as she puts it).
Kureishi, the author of The Buddha of Suburbia and three screenplays, can apparently put anything (like the morality of playing Mowgli in an adaptation of The Jungle Book, or running a laundrette) in its religious, cultural and political context. It is no accident that ‘aubergine’ is one of the few words that the local Labour council leader, a shameless vote-grabber who ingratiates himself with as many ‘communities’ as possible, knows the Hindi for: ‘Brinjal, I believe it’s called. I could murder an Indian, couldn’t you, lads?’ And when Shahid confesses sheepishly to his girlfriend about having been to see the ‘manifestation’ of the vegetable, he defends himself with the exclamation (a sequitur in his mind, if not immediately in the leader’s) that
We’re third-class citizens, even lower...
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SOURCE: “Low Fidelity,” in New Statesman & Society, May 12, 1995, p. 37.
[In the following review of The Faber Book of Pop, Thomson claims, “there is gold here, but also much that doesn't glitter at all.”]
Rave novelist Irvine Welsh is reportedly unhappy at his acceptance by the literati. Hanif Kureishi would surely applaud it—indeed, would see it as inevitable. For he regards pop journalism in all its myriad forms as part of the literary continuum. In his introduction to The Faber Book of Pop. Kureishi dismisses Tom Wolfe’s 1989 “literary manifesto for the new social novel”, declaring pop journalism, biography, the “non-fiction novel” and “personal journalism” to be the late-20th century equivalent of Zola and Balzac. “It is absurd”, he writes, “to think that anyone today could write like Dickens … Pop may have rejected a certain notion of literature … but its progress was accompanied from the beginning by literary comment.”
We must assume that he does not mean “literary” in its literal sense. After all, the acres of comment from British tabloids and the weekly music press that have attended pop from its raucous birth (just after the last war: a debateable point) can scarcely be so aggrandised. Anyway, Kureishi—whom we can presumably hold responsible for the chunks of fiction from the likes of Wolfe, Keith Waterhouse, Colin...
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SOURCE: “Never Mind the Width, Feel the Lack of Quality,” in The Spectator, May 13, 1995, pp. 44-5.
[In the following review, Bywater offers a negative assessment of pop music and The Faber Book of Pop.]
Those who can’t, no longer teach, but go into journalism, where the great thing is to natter and scratch like hens. Scratch, scratch, scratch. That’s why journalists love the pop industry: plenty of surface. Scratch it away and, look!, more surface, and it changes every day. Pop is surface all the way down. The musical toolbag contains only surface instruments—rhythmic thud, punch, whine and whop—and the emotions, too, are superficial: easily dissembled, easily aroused. Sometimes pop musicians kill themselves to notify their fans that their emotions are genuine. It is the apotheosis of superficiality.
The surface detail is fascinating. It’s hypnotic. You can go on writing it down for ever. Some of them do. If you can describe enough things, if you can describe everything, then people might think that you’ve got the picture. People might think you’re in the groove. You might get laid.
Tom Wolfe was one who described everything. But he was being smart, like Stockhausen. Stockhausen did his plunking, his yowling, and so did his imitators and disciples. But what Stockhausen was showing us, like a Swiss horologist who ends his apprenticeship by making a...
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The Economist (review date 15 July 1995)
SOURCE: “Talking 'bout My Generation,” in The Economist, July 15, 1995, p. 67.
[In the following review, the critic discusses the portrayal of pop music in The Faber Book of Pop.]
Pop music “is the wonder of post-war British and American culture”, says Hanif Kureishi in The Faber Book of Pop. It is not as bold a claim as it seems. The development of pop music (broadly defined) into a global phenomenon is a cause for wonder. It is now almost impossible to avoid, hard as some try. It has infiltrated everything from films and television to the shopping mall, the airport, the corporate PR promo and the political rally. The same sounds can be heard everywhere. Madonna is arguably as well known a global product as Coca-Cola.
The success of pop music in becoming the music of the masses is not what this book is really about, however. To Mr Kureishi and his co-editor, Jon Savage, the history of pop music is the story of a war between a vibrant “low culture” and a dying “high culture”, of Wham! versus Wagner. For them, the most crucial battles were fought in the 1950s and 1960s, when teenagers made music (and lived lives) that challenged the repressive mores (and melodies) of their elders. They regard the industrialisation of pop music in recent years with some regret, and think it suggests that the best...
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SOURCE: “Literature vs. Piety on the Streets of London,” in Chicago Tribune Books, October 22, 1995, p. 5.
[In the following review, Fields offers tempered praise for The Black Album, which she considers less well-written than The Buddha of Suburbia.]
Hanif Kureishi has said of his new novel, The Black Album, that it is the first expression, in fiction, of support for Salman Rushdie, whose career as a writer is literally a matter of life and death. Kureishi has set his novel in 1989, the year of the fatwa, the death sentence imposed on Rushdie by the Iranian theocracy as his punishment for having written what it considers—in the face of all contrary literate opinion—a blasphemous book: The Satanic Verses.
The Satanic Verses is never named as the book that provides the pivot for the turning point in this narrative and in the development of the novel’s chief character, but by the time a gang of Islamic fundamentalists holds it up to be burned, its entity is unmistakeable.
Hanif Kureishi, who has turned out the screenplays for My Beautiful Laundrette and Sammy and Rosie Get Laid, as well as an admirable first novel, The Buddha of Suburbia, undertakes in The Black Album a grimmer and more rebellious narrative of outsider life in London. The novel trashes the verbal and sexual pieties of society, and reveres...
(The entire section is 889 words.)
SOURCE: “Loves and Zealots,” in Washington Post Book World, November 12, 1995, p. 8.
[In the following review, Drabelle offers a positive assessment of The Black Album, although he notes weakness in its “creaky structure.”]
The title of Hanif Kureishi’s speedy second novel, which takes place in London just after the fatwa has come down against Salman Rushdie (1989), refers to a work by the Artist Still Happily Known as Prince. Shahid Hasan, the Pakistani-English protagonist, is a Prince fan, dope fan, sex fan, anything but college fan, though his primary occupation is supposed to be studying.
Contrary to stereotype, Shahid comes from money. When his brother, Chili, married the redoubtable Zulma, “their wedding video, longer than The Godfather. (both parts), became essential viewing all over Karachi and even in Peshawar.” Contemptuous of the decrepit state of English manhood, Chili keeps muttering about “the brown man’s burden.” But Chili is in no shape to shoulder a burden—a womanizing dealer and addict, he darts from club to club, chasing, scoring and wisecracking.
Shahid, meanwhile, drifts. He loves women, great 19th-century novels and, he soon discovers, the drug ecstasy. But he lacks fiber and longs for the irascibility that comes with owning a well-defined self. “Papa and Chili had taught Shahid the uses of a temper,”...
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SOURCE: A review of The Black Album, in World Literature Today, Vol. 70, No. 2, Spring, 1996, pp. 405-6.
[In the following review, King offers a favorable assessment of The Black Album, but finds that it is weakened by Kureishi's tendency toward triteness.]
Hanif Kureishi’s latest portrait of post-swinging London is set in 1989, the year of the publication of Rushdie’s Satanic Verses. The liberations of the sixties, the ideologies of the seventies, massive immigration, and Thatcherite economics have resulted in acid raves, slavish followers of any anti-Western slogan, universities in which no one reads, sex without love, disappointed feminists, increasing unemployment, angry minorities, angry white men, the collapse of liberal culture—you name it and it is likely to be here. This is an update of Waugh’s Decline and Fall, but without understatement or consistent irony. It is also “The Second Coming,” but as warning. Things have fallen apart, the best lack conviction, there is social, emotional, and intellectual anarchy, while fanatics demanding unthinking obedience gain followers among the angry and disillusioned. An appropriate novel for the last decade of the century?
Shahid Hasan is a “black British” victim of the latest trends and caught between being second-generation British and those, skinheads and Muslims, who consider him Pakistani....
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SOURCE: “White Men Behaving Badly,” in Times Literary Supplement, December 6, 1996, p. 28.
[In the following excerpt, Bowen offers an unfavorable assessment of The Faber Book of Pop.]
The culture of rock music is a notoriously excessive affair. Anthologies are one way of capturing some of its monstrosity, and in these two fat collections, culled from a half-century or so of writing about rock and pop, we encounter, among other things, Elvis’s 19,000 drug prescriptions in two and a half years, Ike Turner’s thirteen wives (and innumerable affairs and one-night stands), and countless trashed hotel rooms and wrecked lives, to say nothing of such curiosities as Lou Reed’s interview with President Havel and the peculiar charms of Dahlia the Dog Act. Dylan Jones’s Meaty, Beaty, Big and Bouncy, orthodox to a fault, starts with Elvis and ends with Blur and Oasis; the more ambitious and eclectic Faber Book of Pop begins with the future Malcolm X learning the “lindy hop” and “the kangaroo” in a dance-hall in Boston in 1942, and ends with Andrew O’Hagan’s moving 1994 account of Temazepam injectors on a Glasgow housing estate. …
Hanif Kureishi and Jon Savage, the editors of The Faber Book of Pop, are interested in everything to do with pop culture—clothes, sexuality, dancing, politics—and they give plenty of space to its female, gay and black...
(The entire section is 681 words.)
SOURCE: “Eighties Vanities,” in Times Literary Supplement, March 28, 1997, p. 20.
[In the following review of Love in a Blue Time, O'Brien commends Kureishi's perspective and observations, but finds shortcomings in his underdeveloped plots and characters.]
Love in a Blue Time is described by its publishers as concerned with “the difficult, serious business of love—and hate”, but it might be more accurate to say that the book’s main subjects are underachievement, distraction and the afterlife of youth. Love, for which sex appears a synonym, is an arena in which these conditions are indulged and suffered. Two brief stories, “We’re Not Jews” and “My Son the Fanatic”, relate personal dilemmas to the larger contexts of race and religion, and achieve a choked, baffled power; but the pull of the book is towards the exhaustion, laziness and panic of private life as Kureishi conceives it for the newly middle-aged members of his preferred class.
His characters are film-makers, script-writers, photographers, artistic wannabes and their variously dissatisfied womenfolk—people who, in their own increasingly vague terms, have not quite made it. Their lives are the Reluctant Reader’s version of the Hampstead novel. One character begins reading Proust, not because it is interesting but because to finish will confer a belated virtue. When another accepts the gift...
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SOURCE: “‘No Secrets Were Safe from Me’: Situating Hanif Kureishi,” in Massachusetts Review, Vol. XXXVIII, No. 1, Spring, 1997, pp. 119-35.
[In the following essay, Weber examines aspects of ethnicity, cultural identity, and literary practice in Kureishi's fiction and films, particularly in relation to American ethnic writers such as Jewish-American author Philip Roth.]
I want to begin this essay, which seeks to situate the contemporary Pakistani-British novelist/filmmaker Hanif Kureishi in relation to American ethnic expression, with two striking, provocative exchanges. The first is by the distinguished socialist scholar (and editor of the important journal Race and Class), A. Sivanandan, in response to the cosmic questions, posed by Quintin Hoare and Malcolme Imrie, “Do you feel you are in a kind of exile? Where are you at home?” The second is drawn from Kureishi’s recent satirical novel, The Black Album (1995), during a tense moment when the question of “home,” the issue of “belonging,” is engaged by Riaz, the charismatic, Islamic student leader, and Shahid, Kureishi’s young, wickedly honest—and wickedly sarcastic—hero, torn between the appeal of religious orthodoxy and the claims of personal imagination (along with, as always in Kureishi, the urges of an unbridled libido). Listen, first, to Dr. Sivanandan:
I am at home in...
(The entire section is 6583 words.)
SOURCE: “Into the Blue,” in The Spectator, May 10, 1997, pp. 36-7.
[In the following review, Page offers a generally positive assessment of Love in a Blue Time, but finds shortcomings in Kureishi's tendency toward caricature.]
As any closet romantic will tell you, falling out of love can be an even grander experience than falling into it, as well as, of course, a more permanent one. The revelations of disenchantment and ways of surviving it form the basis of Hanif Kureishi’s latest outing—a collection of bawdy and often indulgent short stories. The opening tale, ‘In the Blue’, sets the tone with the betrayals of a 22-year-old, by now perfunctory, friendship between Roy and Jimmy. Once soul-mates in their adolescence, they have drifted diametrically under Thatcherism, selling out and dropping out, respectively. From the treacheries of friendship, the book goes on to cover a wide spectrum of infidelity and love-loss, with characters incapable of communing and equally ill-disposed to living alone.
Kureishi avoids melodrama, by lodging the blame for each break-up at personal despondency, rather than the caprice of the fairer sex. ‘Self-hate stories’ would be a more appropriate label for them than ‘love stories’, being awash with sub-aspirant careerists—from a TV advert director dreaming of his first feature, to a rootless Asian father trying to write novels in a...
(The entire section is 588 words.)
SOURCE: “Hanif Kureishi Makes an Excursion into Short Fiction,” in Chicago Tribune Books, December 28, 1997, p. 3.
[In the following review, Ulin offers an overall unfavorable assessment of Love in a Blue Time, despite “the success of some pieces.”]
Since the mid-1980s, Hanif Kureishi has chronicled the life of modern London in a variety of media, alternating among fiction, screenplays and stage plays with apparent ease. First recognized for his film My Beautiful Laundrette, in which the dual specters of British racism and homophobia were given a very human—and, at times, unsettlingly personal—face, Kureishi writes about a society transformed by post-colonialism, where the established order has yielded to something both uncertain and absurd. From Pakistani immigrants and suburban racists to ’60s refugees looking for one last, evanescent high, his characters tread the line between tragedy and comedy, occupying a murky middle territory where the disturbing and the ridiculous coincide.
Kureishi’s new book, Love in a Blue Time, represents a bit of a departure, not least because it is his first excursion into the short fiction form. Featuring 10 stories, some previously published in Granta, The New Yorker and the London Review of Books, it functions, at its best, with a documentary sharpness, recording the peculiar tensions, the clashes between...
(The entire section is 1077 words.)
SOURCE: “Kureishi's Storytelling: Liquid Windows,” in Hanif Kureishi: Postcolonial Storyteller, University of Texas Press, 1998, pp. 240-57.
[In the following essay, Kaleta provides an overview of the central themes, social and cultural concerns, and artistic techniques in Kureishi's fiction and films.]
Popular response to Kureishi has not yet moved beyond initially reacting to his work with hyphenated cultural descriptors. After more than a decade, however, critical response to Kureishi appears to be moving toward an expanded perspective. He neither accepts nor acknowledges making cultural descriptors into literary criticism. Kureishi has not only survived his Anglo-Asian labeling, he has made use of the reputation it helped create. This is, indeed, one of his achievements—that he has not allowed his work to be confined to the mold that had been defined for it either by popular perception or by critics; instead, he has achieved critical recognition of his perspective as a new English perspective, and thereby he has demanded recognition of today’s new national hybrid identities.
Kureishi keeps his distance. He creates a complicated fictional universe in which mutability is inevitable. Incidents are blatantly biased in racial, sexual, cultural, political, and gender-related ways. But they are defined by the way in which they occur, by each character’s response to them. As to...
(The entire section is 6246 words.)
SOURCE: A review of Love in a Blue Time, in World Literature Today, Vol. 72, No. 2, Spring, 1998, pp. 371-2.
[In the following review, King gives a favorable assessment of Love in a Blue Time.]
Written over the past decade, the six short stories of Love in a Blue Time, all republished from magazines, are a pleasant surprise. Their conciseness compresses desire, indulgence, and subsequent frustrations into a few dreamlike yet highly colloquial pages. Everything appears to happen at once, in the present, with no time for reflection. An effective technique is the sudden, unannounced, unprepared shift into the mind of someone on drugs or having sex, or into the midst of a likely disaster. Before you have had time to say “Watch it” as the temptation comes into sight, the scene moves far ahead, without even the warning of time passing or an obvious jump-cut. The effect is druglike, not so much the strung-out psychedelia of the 1960s as more a speeded-up version of the amusing but self-destructive drug-taking found in writing of the 1980s, where snorting was part of glittering success and led rapidly to disaster.
The title story “Love in a Blue Time” epitomizes the 1980s. A now well-off rebel trying to break out from advertising into serious filmmaking and from one-night stands to marriage and fatherhood almost throws everything away in a swift return to debauchery once...
(The entire section is 567 words.)
SOURCE: “Diet Fiction,” in New York, March 15, 1999, pp. 59-60.
[In the following review, Kirn finds that Intimacy achieves only a “handsome tedium.”]
Size matters in fiction, but so does lack of size. Everything else being equal, fat novels tend to be perceived as serious, very thin ones as more honest, more real. Writers address these age-old expectations by filling their big books with philosophy and cramming their little ones with feeling. Lately, it’s the massive efforts that have gotten more attention, but that may be changing. Witness two new miniatures published by the same company, Scribners, and promoted for their supposed authenticity. Sized to fit on a key chain and packaged to resemble tiny fashion accessories, one book is said on its jacket to be “searing,” the other “wrenching.” Appearances deceive, though.
The searing novel is Hanif Kureishi’s Intimacy, whose title is both immodest and modest at once, in the slickest contemporary style. The title is a good guide to what’s inside: a cold little slice of marital agony set in media-savvy upscale London, where passionless unions are hardly news, particularly among the rich and educated. From movies such as Sunday Bloody Sunday and Harold Pinter’s Betrayal, we already know the story, if not the characters and 90 percent of the terse, inhibited dialogue. All is disconnect and...
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SOURCE: “Buddha Leaves Suburbia,” in The Nation, April 19, 1999, pp. 38-40.
[Below, Proctor reviews Kureishi's career up to Intimacy.]
If you adored Catherine Texier’s Breakup last year, fell to the floor gushing sympathetic tears for the abandoned raconteur and raised your fists with indignant empathy over the cruelty of love’s death, then you’ll probably be just as content to steer clear of Intimacy, Hanif Kureishi’s fourth work of fiction. If, however, you found Texier’s blitzkrieg of grief indulgent, if you wearied by page ten of the unnuanced voice of victimization, if you wondered when it stopped taking two to tango, “if you, too, have known love and loss” (as Fay Weldon said of Breakup) but took the intellectual path out of it, befriended your defense mechanisms, uncomfortably celebrated the idealistic possibility of finding love … again, thought it all fascinating at some level, then Intimacy may be for you.
A successful, middle-aged writer walks out on his common-law wife (and former editor) and two young sons, moves in with a younger woman who plays in a rock band, and writes a novella about it. This is Intimacy—billed as fiction, though the similarities to the author’s own life cast a spurious shadow over the claim. Intimacy is a falling-out-of-love book, according to Kureishi “an examination of family, duty,...
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SOURCE: “Buddy Flicks,” in New York, July 12, 1999, pp. 49-50.
[In the following review, Rainer gives a brief plot summary of My Son the Fanatic.]
Parvez (Om Puri), the middle-aged Pakistani cabdriver in the marvelous My Son the Fanatic, moved to the industrial north of England 25 years ago with his wife, Minoo (Gopi Desai), and, against the evidence of his eyes, still sees his adopted country as a fabled and pleasant place. He’s a naïf who has internalized the rewards of Empire far more than have the native English. When his only child, Farid (Akbar Kurtha), who still lives at home, drops his white fiancée, forsakes his possessions, and becomes an Islamic fundamentalist, Parvez is stung by this renunciation of his own dream; at first he thinks the boy must be on drugs.
Hanif Kureishi, who wrote the screenplay based on his New Yorker short story, doesn’t frame this conflict as a generational grudge match. It’s more like an upside-down father-son love story in which the usual sides are reversed: The father is much more liberal than the son. Kureishi, with the director Udayan Prasad, understands the allures of orthodoxy, the way it can focus rage. And yet when Farid brings a Muslim priest and his followers to live in their home, and Minoo is quietly shut off from the dining room to eat alone, the consequences of that orthodoxy seem unutterably sad. Parvez is...
(The entire section is 311 words.)
SOURCE: “A Daughter, a Father,” in The New Republic, August 9, 1999, p. 30.
[In the following review, Kauffmann examines Parvez, the central character of My Son the Fanatic.]
Belatedly, a welcome to My Son the Fanatic (Miramax). It was written by Hanif Kureishi, author of My Beautiful Laundrette and Sammy and Rosie Get Laid, and was directed by Udayan Prasad, Indian-born but raised in England, whose second feature it is. I’ve not seen his first, Brothers in Trouble, but Om Puri, who was in it, plays the leading role in the new picture.
Here Puri is Parvez, Pakistani-born, who has spent twenty-five years as a taxi driver in the northern English city of Bradford. The story opens with a party to toast the engagement of Parvez’s son Farid and the daughter of a very English police inspector. Parvez is delighted; the inspector is not. The engagement doesn’t last, and Farid makes his way, mostly off-screen, from this attempt at assimilation to fierce Islamic fundamentalism. This journey takes place so consistently off-screen that the film’s title is a misnomer. Farid does become a fanatic, in his father’s eyes, but it is a secondary matter: his father is the protagonist of the story.
An important part of Parvez’s business is hooker transport. He carries hookers to and from their dates, he makes hooker recommendations to visiting...
(The entire section is 504 words.)
SOURCE: “Hanif Kureishi on London,” in Critical Quarterly, Vol. 41, No. 3, Autumn, 1999, pp. 37-56.
[In the following interview, Kureishi discusses racial and cultural issues in contemporary London, his background and experiences in London, and the creative processes behind his fiction and films.]
[MacCabe:] Good evening, I’m Colin MacCabe, Chairman of the London Consortium, which, together with the Architectural Association, has organised this conference on London as a post-colonial city, to which Hanif Kureishi’s season of films and particularly tonight’s conversation are a curtain-raiser. Kureishi’s work has almost all been set in London and is, arguably, the most significant body of work which investigates, interrogates and celebrates the realities of post-colonial London.
Hanif, I’d like to start the evening by asking you very simply how, as a Londoner born and bred, you see the capital?
[Kureishi:] I was born, actually, in the suburbs, in a place called Bromley. And for us the important place, really, was the river. And when you got on the train and you crossed the river, at that moment there was an incredible sense that you were entering another kind of world. And being in the suburbs, we could get to London quite easily on the train—about fifteen or twenty minutes—but it was a big jump. And the suburbs were completely...
(The entire section is 9793 words.)
SOURCE: “Umbrella Rage,” in Times Literary Supplement, November 12, 1999, p. 24.
[In the following review, Baker offers a generally positive assessment of Midnight All Day.]
“What could be more beguiling than other people’s stymied desire?” asks the narrator in one of these ten short stories [in Midnight All Day], bitterly sure that the tale of his romantic misfortunes is going to do the rounds among his friends. Stymied desire is the constant factor in the collection, which circles relentlessly around non-communication; toxic relationships and the bloody-mindedness of other people.
Frustration piles up excruciatingly, in “Strangers When We Meet”, when Robert arranges a romantic break with his mistress. Florence, only to find that at the last moment she has to bring her husband. They check into the same hotel, where he can hear Florence and Archie in the next bedroom. He talks to Archie in the bar about his situation, and Archie, asks. “Do you want her to leave her husband? … Wait ’til he catches up with you!” Later, Archie introduces him to Florence: “Florrie, he’s been unhappy in love. Married woman and all that. We must cheer him up.” The narrator has earlier wondered why he doesn’t just knock on their bedroom door: “I am all for surrealism”, he says, dignifying a situation which is closer to farce.
Things are bloodier in...
(The entire section is 885 words.)
Ball, John Clement. “The Semi-Detached Metropolis: Hanif Kureishi's London.” Ariel 27, No. 4 (October 1996): 7-27.
Examines the use and multicultural significance of Kureishi's London settings in his fiction and films, particularly in My Beautiful Laundrette and Sammy and Rosie Get Laid.
Gleick, Elizabeth. “Bittersweet Sorrows.” Time (22 March 1999): 102.
Generally positive review of Intimacy, which Gleick calls “powerful, if not exactly joyous, reading.”
Hogan, Kay. Review of Intimacy. Library Journal 123, No. 20 (December 1998): 157.
Offers a favorable assessment of Intimacy.
Johnston, Bonnie. Review of Intimacy. Booklist (1 January 1999): 832.
Offers a positive evaluation of Intimacy.
Leiding, Reba. Review of Love in a Blue Time. Library Journal (1 October 1997): 128.
Gives an overall positive assessment of Love in a Blue Time.
Review of Intimacy. Publishers Weekly (14 December 1998): 55.
Offers a positive assessment of Intimacy.
Review of Love in a Blue Time. Publishers Weekly (8 September 1997): 55.
Offers a generally positive...
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