Monday, 14 September 2009

Hanif Kureishi: 'Rebel With a Medal' on the Couch

You might have seen this article about Hanif Kureishi in TIME magazine a couple of weeks ago. It struck a cord because not only do I happen to be reading his latest novel, Something To Tell You, but because I have always been fascinated by him. The article refers, of course, to the recent staging at the National Theatre of his 1993 novel, The Black Album. The novel was engaging and timely but, having seen the reviews of play, I demured from making the effort to go see it. As one would with a long-admired artist, I had willed his play to be a great success, not least because it was a Tara Arts co-production.

The reason why Kureishi was a bit of a hero of mine is touched on in the TIME piece:
While other children of immigrants tried to create an identity through cast-iron faith, Kureishi forged his through rebellious fiction. His works were a mosh pit of high and low Western culture, with knowing references to Wittgenstein and Genet, ecstasy raves and gay sex. Suddenly, Asian Britain wasn't just about corner shops, victimhood and longing for Bombay, but anarchy in the U.K.
What a revelation his work was in the 1980s for young British-Asians. Later, I was transfixed by his Buddha of Suburbia - he really managed to nail down a time and a place that was London, the 70s and 80s, the suburbs, culture and aspects of race and class. I know that it inspired a few of my fellow sixth-formers and, later students. This included a young and talented Harwant Bains who went on to have his plays produced at London's Royal Court, amongst other places, and later a film Wild West, which happened to star the Buddha actor himself, Naveen Andrews, long before he got 'Lost' on an island.

If you want to read more about Kureishi, I'd recommend this longer and typically more considered piece by Johann Hari in The Independent based on a lengthy interview with Kureishi and dwelling on his relationship with psychoanalysis, a preoccupation of the latest novel, Something To Tell You.

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