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Hanif Kureishi (born December 5, 1954)

Although he does not employ the idiom of identity politics, Hanif Kureishi frequently gives gay men, lesbians, and bisexuals significant roles in his works.

Kureishi was born in 1954 to a Pakistani father and a British mother. He attended Bromley Tech and King's College, London. Kureishi wrote several moderately successful plays for the Royal Court Theater--The King and Me (1980), The Mother Country (1980), Outskirts (1981, which won the George Devine Drama Award), Borderline (1981), and Birds of Passage (1983)--but first gained international prominence with his screenplay, My Beautiful Laundrette (1985). Not only was the film a commercial success, the screenplay was nominated for an Academy Award.

Kureishi's subsequent screenplays include Sammy and Rosie Get Laid (1988), London Kills Me (1991), and My Son the Fanatic (1997), which is based on a short story from his 1997 collection, Love in a Blue Time. Kureishi's novels include The Buddha of Suburbia (1991), which won the George Whitbread Prize; The Black Album (1995); and Intimacy (1998).

Gay men, lesbians, and bisexuals regularly play significant roles in Kureishi's work. For example, the relationship between Omar and Johnny is central to My Beautiful Laundrette; the lesbians in Sammy and Rosie Get Laid are crucial subsidiary characters; and in The Buddha of Suburbia, protagonist Karim's simultaneous desire for and identification with Charlie is as strong as his bonds with any of the women in the text, and his adolescent sexual experimentation with Charlie is represented both erotically and comically.

Kureishi's urbane representation of same-sex relationships has been found to be offensive by conservative members of the Pakistani-British community. Conversely, his works are not usually discussed in the context of gay literature because he does not employ the idiom of identity politics. In The Buddha of Suburbia, for instance, Karim enjoys having sex with both men and women, but he does not identify himself as a bisexual any more than he does as an Englishman or a "Paki."

Racially hybrid himself, Kureishi is fascinated by figures who destabilize supposedly pure categories. Because gay men and lesbians traditionally have been despised by conservatives precisely because they are seen to blur prescribed boundaries of gender difference, it is not surprising that they should occupy such an important role in his work. The cross-class, cross-racial, homosexual relationship between Omar and Johnny in My Beautiful Laundrette, for instance, helps illuminate the artificial, sometimes contradictory, often brutally destructive effects of class, national, and family categories in Thatcher's Britain.

Another major theme in almost all of Kureishi's work is the inescapable weight of colonial history in postcolonial Britain. He often dramatizes this theme through the affectively charged and tortuous relationships between fathers and sons. The fathers, like Papa in My Beautiful Laundrette and Haroon in The Buddha of Suburbia, are often first-generation immigrants; the sons, like Omar and Karim, have lived all their lives in Britain. Although not explicitly sexual, the intensely ambivalent ties between these fathers and sons can aptly be described as homoerotic.

Thus, rather than treating homosexuality as the concern of a discrete minority, Kureishi uses same-sex relationships to explore the contradictions of history and national identity in postcolonial Britain.

Citation Information
Author: Silva, Stephen da
Entry Title: Kureishi, Hanif
General Editor: Claude J. Summers
Publication Name: glbtq: An Encyclopedia of Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer Culture
Publication Date: 2002
Date Last Updated December 14, 2002
Web Address www.glbtq.com/literature/kureishi_h.html
Publisher glbtq, Inc.
1130 West Adams
Chicago, IL 60607
Today's Date December 5, 2012
Encyclopedia Copyright: © 2002-2006, glbtq, Inc.
Entry Copyright © 2002, New England Publishing Associates

Further Readings:

Hanif Kureishi: Postcolonial Storyteller by Kenneth C. Kaleta
Paperback: 303 pages
Publisher: University of Texas Press; 1st University of Texas Press Ed edition (1998)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0292743335
ISBN-13: 978-0292743335
Amazon: Hanif Kureishi: Postcolonial Storyteller

"Hanif Kureishi is a proper Englishman. Almost." So observes biographer Kenneth Kaleta. Well known for his films My Beautiful Laundrette and Sammy and Rosie Get Laid, the Anglo-Asian screenwriter, essayist, and novelist has become one of the leading portrayers of Britain's multicultural society. His work raises important questions of personal and national identity as it probes the experience of growing up in one culture with roots in another, very different one.

This book is the first critical biography of Hanif Kureishi. Kenneth Kaleta interviewed Kureishi over several years and enjoyed unlimited access to all of his working papers, journals, and personal files. From this rich cache of material, he opens a fascinating window onto Kureishi's creative process, tracing such works as My Beautiful Laundrette, Sammy and Rosie Get Laid, The Buddha of Suburbia, London Kills Me, The Black Album, and Love in a Blue Time from their genesis to their public reception. Writing for Kureishi fans as well as film and cultural studies scholars, Kaleta pieces together a vivid mosaic of the postcolonial, hybrid British culture that has nourished Kureishi and his work.

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Tags: author: hanif kureishi, gay classics, literary heritage, persistent voices
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