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literature

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Kureishi, Hanif (b. 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.

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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 .

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.

Stephen da Silva

     

    
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    Bibliography
   

Kaleta, Kenneth C. Hanif Kureishi: Postcolonial Storyteller. Austin: University of Texas Press, 1998.

Mohanram, Radhika. "Postcolonial Spaces and Deterritorialized (Homo) Sexuality: The Films of Hanif Kureishi." Postcolonial Discourse and Changing Cultural Contexts. Gita Rajan and Radhika Mohanram, eds. Westport, Ct.: Greenwood Press, 1995. 117-134.

Schoene, Berthold. "Herald of Hybridity: The Emancipation of Difference in Hanif Kureishi's Buddha of Suburbia." International Journal of Cultural Studies 1 (April 1998): 109-128.

Spivak, Gayatri Chakravorty. "Sammy and Rosie Get Laid." Outside in the Teaching Machine. New York and London: Routledge, 1993. 243-254.

Sukhdev, Sandhu. "Paradise Syndrome: Me and Hanif Kureishi." London Review of Books 22:10 (May 18, 2000): 32-35.

Williamson, Judith. "Two Kinds of Otherness: Black Film and the Avant Garde." Black British Cultural Studies. Houston Baker, Manthia Diawara, and Ruth H. Lindborg, eds. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1996. 68-73.

 

    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  
    Encyclopedia Copyright: © 2002-2006, glbtq, Inc.  
    Entry Copyright © 2002, New England Publishing Associates  
 

 

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