Hanif Kureishi was born in the London suburb of Bromley, United Kingdom, in 1954. His mother was English, his father a Pakistani immigrant. He grew up belonging to no fixed cultural group, as is also the case for some of the heroes in his stories. Kureishi had already started to write novels as a teenager, but after graduating with a degree in philosophy, his initial success came as a dramatist at the Royal Court Theatre in London and as a script writer.
But it was his Oscar-nominated script for Stephan Frears’ film ‘My Beautiful Laundrette’ that brought him international recognition. The film tells the story of a young Pakistani, who, hungry for success, opens a lucrative laundrette with a white partner – a venture that, in Margaret Thatcher’s Great Britain, is as unheard of as it is successful, a declaration of war against racial hatred and homophobia.
In Great Britain, Kureishi’s first novel ‘The Buddha of Suburbia’ (1990) received the renowned Whitbread Award in 1990. It is a satirical description of how the bisexual “Englishman” Karim Amir grows up between yoga and punk in London in the wild 70’s. His second novel ‘The Black Album’ (1995) again focuses on a young Pakistani who is drawn into the conflict between pop culture and Islamic fundamentalism – a subject that is still topical. Kureishi’s stories are above all characterised by his keen eye for those facets of modern life that are enigmatic, yet at times somehow absurd in their banality.
The writer continues to be drawn to the big screen and he has even directed a film – the 1991 ‘London Kills Me’. ‘Intimacy’, a film by the French director Patrice Chéreau, is based on a short novel and stories by Kureishi and won the Golden Bear at the Berlin Film Festival in 2001. His film ‘The Mother’ – for which he also wrote the script – is based on his eponymous play. It was shown as part of the Directors Fortnight at the Film Festival in Cannes in 2003. Common to his latest works is the melancholy tone of former rebels as they increasingly ponder on the difficulties of growing older, an issue that is again explored in his most recent collection of prose. ‘The Body’ (2002) tells the somewhat macabre story of an ageing writer who ends up losing his identity after having his brain transplanted into the body of a young man. “The Word and the Bomb” (2005) is a collection of old and new pieces and essays which deal with the conflict between European values and Islamic fundamentalism. Hanif Kureishi lives in London.
© internationales literaturfestival berlin