Hanif Kureishi's previous book, Intimacy
--an account of the writer's abandonment of his marriage--divided critical opinion violently, but the novel's unsparing honesty marked it as one of Kureishi's best works, with an excoriating, spiky cussedness that sidestepped the wheedling self-justifications of most "confessional" books. Midnight All Day
, his new collection of short stories, continues his exploration of the irrational impulses of desire. Some of the protagonists here seem to be barely disguised avatars of the author, as if Kureishi had felt compelled to go over the earlier material obsessively, from different angles, through different voices: a prismatic opening up of the emotional complexity of Intimacy
(the book is alluded to in the first story; elsewhere there are uneasy discussions about the ethics of writing). There is a clinical quality to his observations, an anatomisation born not of indifference but of fascinated curiosity at the perplexing disarray of human relationships, the shifts from desperate need to boredom, the uneasy fragility of the alliances that lovers make: "We are unerring in our choice of lovers, particularly when we require the wrong person. There is an instinct, magnet or aerial which seeks the unsuitable. The wrong person is, of course, right for something--to punish, bully or humiliate us, let us down, leave us for dead, or, worst of all , give us the impression that they are not inappropriate, but almost right, thus hanging us in love's limbo."
He perhaps shows in these stories that what he has always been interested in is the unfathomable pitch of sexuality-- ultimately idiosyncratic and endlessly fascinating, a chaotic accumulation of people's myriad specific needs, anxieties and desires.
Kureishi has moved away from the more obviously politicised terrain of earlier work, though elegiac glimpses of it surface occasionally, ruminations on the wake of idealism. If the long years of Thatcherism made a kind of political writing unavoidable, the 90s has seen a shift of focus to the landscape within, to what we are as men or women. This selfishness stems from a recognition of the inability ever to know the other. ("If falling in lov e could only be a glimpse of the other, who was the passion really directed at?") What remains is the search for gratification and the scrutiny of one's own impulses, an alternation between compulsion and a need for freedom.
The final story, "The Penis", is an unsubtle reworking of Gogol's "The Nose". It is as if, after all the analysis, Kureishi is despairing of ever reaching a better understanding of love: all that's left is one man and his dick, in uneasy alliance. --Burhan Tufail
About the Author
Hanif Kureishi grew up in Kent and studied philosophy at King's College London. His novels include The Buddha of Suburbia
, which won the Whitbread Prize for Best First Novel, The Black Album
and Something to Tell You
. His screenplays include My Beautiful Laundrette
, which received an Oscar nomination for Best Screenplay, Sammyand Rosie Get Laid
and The Mother.
He has also published several collections of short stories. He has been awarded the Chevalier de l'Ordre des Arts et des Lettres and been translated into thirty six languages., Hanif Kureishi was born and brought up in Kent. He read philosophy at King's College, London. In 1981 he won the George Devine Award for his plays Outskirts
, and in 1982 he was appointed Writer-in-Residence at the Royal Court Theatre. In 1984 he wrote My Beautiful Laundrette
, which received an Oscar nomination for Best Screenplay. His second screenplay Sammy and Rosie Get Laid
(1987) was followed by London Kills Me
(1991) which he also directed. The Buddha of Suburbia
won the Whitbread Prize for Best First Novel in 1990 and was made into a four-part drama series by the BBC in 1993. His version of Brecht's Mother Courage
has been produced by the Royal Shakespeare Company and the Royal National Theatre. His second novel, The Black Album
, was published in 1995. With Jon Savage he edited The Faber Book of Pop
(1995). His first collection of short stories, Love in a Blue Time
, was published in 1997. His story My Son the Fanatic
, from that collection, was adapted for film and released in 1998. Intimacy
, his third novel, was published in 1998, and a film of the same title, based on the novel and other stories by the author, was released in 2001 and won the Golden Bear award at the Berlin Film Festival. His play Sleep With Me
premièred at the Royal National Theatre in 1999. His second collection of stories, Midnight All Day
, was published in 2000. Gabriel's Gift
, his fourth novel, was published in 2001. The Body and Seven Stories
and Dreaming and Schemi
ng, a collection of essays, were published in 2002. His screenplay The Mother
was directed by Roger Michell and released in 2003. In 2004 he published his play When The Night Begins
and a memoir, My Ear At His Heart
. A second collection of essays, The Word and the Bomb,
followed in 2005. His screenplay Venus
was directed by Roger Michell in 2006. His novel Something to Tell You
was published in 2008.In July 2009 his adaptation of his novel, The Black Album
, opened at the National Theatre, prior to a nation-wide tour. In 2010 his Collected Stories
were published.He has been awarded the Chevalier de l'Ordre des Arts et des Lettres.