“From the start I tried to deny my Pakistani self . . . it was a curse
and I wanted to be rid of it. I wanted to be like everyone else.”
– Kureishi, “The Rainbow Sign”
Born December 5, 1954 in Bromley, England, to an Indian father and an English mother, Hanif Kureishi grew up experiencing first-hand the racial and cultural clashes that he addresses in most of his work. The inspiration for his work has been drawn from his own life’s trials and tribulations as a culturally hybrid individual of two different races and cultures. Kureishi decided that he wanted to be a writer from a young age, and began writing novels that were considered for publication while he was still a teenager.
He studied philosophy at King’s College, University of London, and then supported himself by writing pornography under the pseudonym Antonia French. After a humble beginning as an usher for the Royal Theater, Kureishi later became the theater’s writer in residence. His first play, Soaking Up the Heat, was produced in 1976 at London’s Theater Upstairs. His second play, The Mother Country, won the Thames Television Playwright Award in 1980. His breakthrough came with his first play for the Royal Court Theater, Borderline, about immigrants living in London. This led him to have his work, Outskirts, performed by London’s Royal Shakespeare Company.
Kureishi’s first efforts with film were successful and gained him a larger audience, especially in America. His screenplay for My Beautiful Laundrette was written in 1985, and tells the story of a young Pakistani immigrant who opens a laundromat with his gay, white lover. Critics from both sides of the Atlantic praised Kureishi. One reviewer, Ian Jack, said, “Here at last is a story about immigrants which shows them neither as victims nor tradition-bound aliens. They’re comprehensible, modern people with an eye to the main chance, no better or worse than the rest of us.” Despite the rave reviews, some Pakistani organizations felt that they were being portrayed in a negative manner as homosexuals and drug dealers. To them, a character of Pakistani origin represented the entire Pakistani community, and should display a positive stereotype to American and British audiences. Kureishi rejects the politics of representation; he does not assume this role as an ambassador representing a minority, preferring to depict the harsher realities of racism and class divisions.
After My Beautiful Laundrette won several awards, including the Best Screenplay award from the New York Film Critics Circle, Kureishi scripted his next film with the controversial title Sammy and Rosie Get Laid. Exploring the world of a racially mixed couple living in London during the race riots, it received less critical acclaim than his previous film. Kureishi made a triumphal return in 1990 with his first semi-autobiographical novel, The Buddha of Suburbia. It is about the life of a young bisexual man, who is half-Indian and half-English, growing up in London. It won the Whitbread Book of the Year Award for the first novel category of the Booksellers Association of Great Britain and Ireland.
In 1991, Kureishi made his directorial debut with London Kills Me, which he also wrote. In this film, he expanded on his interest in street life by focusing on the world of drugs and gangs. He also returns to one of his recurring themes by addressing homelessness. As the son of an immigrant, Kureishi has written a great deal on the concept of home, describing the complexities involved in finding a place to belong. In another novel, The Black Album, he delves into the painful, lonely, and confused world of a young man of Pakistani origin, who finds himself having to choose between his white lover and his Muslim friends. The novel makes many references to pop culture, especially music and drugs, which feature in a great deal of Kureishi’s work.
Selected Works by Hanif Kureishi
- Kureishi, Hanif. Birds of Passage. Hampstead Theatre, London. September 1983. Performance.
- —. Cinders. Adapted. Janusz Glowacki. Royal Court Theatre, London. Winter 1981. Performance.
- —. The King and Me. Soho Poly Theater, London. January 1979. Performance.
- —. The Mother Country. Riverside Studios, London, 1980.
- —. Mother Courage (1984) Adapted. Bertolt Brecht. Royal Shakespeare Company, London. Winter 1984. Performance.
- —. Soaking the Heat. Royal Theatre Company Upstairs, London. 1976. Performance.
- —. Tomorrow-Today! Soho Poly Theatre, London. 1981. Performance.
- Kureishi, Hanif. London Kills Me: Three Screenplays and Four Essays. London: Faber, 1991.
- —. My Beautiful Laundrette. Contained in My Beautiful Laundrette and The Rainbow Sign, London: Faber, 1986.
- — Sammy and Rosie Get Laid : The Script and the Diary, London: Penguin, 1988.
- — My Son The Fanatic. London: Faber and Faber, 1997.
- — Hanif Kureishi Plays One. London: Faber and Faber, 1999.
- — Sleep With Me. London: Faber and Faber, 1999.
- — Collected Screenplays Volume I. London: Faber and Faber, 2002.
- — The Mother. London: Faber and Faber, 2003.
- — Venus. London: Faber and Faber, 2007.
- — The Black Album (adapted from the novel). London: Faber and Faber, 2009.
- Kureishi, Hanif. “The Trial”. Adapted. Franz Kafka. BBC. London. October 1982. Radio.
- —. “You Can’t Go Home” BBC. London. 1984. Radio.
- Kureishi, Hanif. The Buddha of Suburbia. London: Faber and Faber Limited, 1990.
- —. The Black Album. New York: Simon and Schuster Inc., 1995.
- —. Love in a Blue Time. New York: Simon and Schuster Inc., 1997.
- —. Intimacy. New York: Scribner, 1999.
- —. Midnight All Day. London: Faber and Faber, 2000.
- —. Gabriel’s Gift. New York: Scribner, 2001.
- —. The Body. New York: Scribner, 2004.
- —. Something To Tell You. New York: Scribner, 2008.
- —. The Last Word. London: Faber and Faber, 2014.
- —. The Nothing. London: Faber and Faber, 2017.
- Kureishi, Hanif. The Buddha of Suburbia. Dir. Roger Michell. British Broadcasting Corporation, 1993. Film.
- —. Intimacy. Dir. Patrice Chéreau. Téléma, 2001. Film.
- —. London Kills Me. Dir. Hanif Kureishi. Channel Four Films, 1991. Film.
- —. The Mother. Dir. Roger Michell. BBC Films, 2003. Film.
- —. My Beautiful Laundrette. Dir. Stephen Frears. Channel Four Films, 1985. Film.
- —. My Son the Fanatic. Dir. Udayan Prasad. BBC Films, 1997. Film.
- —. Sammy and Rosy Get Laid. Dir. Stephen Frears. Channel Four Films, 1987. Film.
- —. Venus. Dir. Roger Michell. Miramax Films, 2006. Film.
- —. Weddings and Beheadings. Dir. Amir Jamal. Tigerly Films, 2007. Film.
- —. Le Week-End. Dir. Roger Michell. Film4, 2013. Film
Essays and Non-Fiction
- Kureishi, Hanif. “Bradford”. Granta. 20: 1986.
- —. My Ear at His Heart. London: Scribner, 2004.
- —. The Word and the Bomb. London: Faber and Faber, 2005.
Selected Criticism on Hanif Kureishi
- Buchanan, Bradley. Hanif Kureishi (New British Fiction). New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2007.
- Contemporary Literary Criticism, Volume 64, Gale, 1991, 245 – 255.
- Chicago Tribune Book World, April 6, 1986, 26.
- Driscoll, Lawrence Victor. Evading Class in Contemporary British Literature. New York : Palgrave Macmillan, 2009.
- Economist, July 21, 1990, 92.
- Hunter, Jefferson. English filming, English writing. Bloomington, IN : Indiana University Press, 2010.
- Interview, July, 1987, 94.
- Los Angeles Times Book Review, June 3, 1990, 10.
- MacPhee, Graham and Prem Poddar. Empire and After : Englishness in Postcolonial Perspective. New York : Berghahn Books, 2007.
- Moore-Gilbert, Bart. Hanif Kureishi (Contemporary World Writers). Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2001.
- New Yorker, November 16, 1987, 140 – 141.
- New York Times Book Review, May 6, 1990, 6.
- Pesso-Miquel, Catherine and Klaus Stierstorfer. Fundamentalism and Literature. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2007.
- Ranasinha, Ruvani. Hanif Kureishi (Writers and Their Work). Devon: Northcote House Publishers Ltd, 2002.
- Reichl, Susanne and Mark Stein. Cheeky Fictions: Laughter and the Postcolonial. Amsterdam ; New York : Rodopi, 2005.
- Thomas, Susie (ed). Hanif Kureishi (Readers’ Guides to Essential Criticism). Palgrave Macmillan, 2005.
- Time, March 17, 1986, 78.
- Times Literary Supplement, January 22, 1988, 87.
- Times Literary Supplement, May 2, 1986, 470
- Washington Post Book Review, May 27, 1990, 7.
Author: Surbhi Sharma, Fall 1997
Last edited: May 2017