Hanif Kureishi, CBE (born 5 December 1954) is an English playwright, screenwriter and filmmaker and novelist of Pakistani descent. In 2008, The Times included Kureishi in their list of "The 50 greatest British writers since 1945".
Kureishi was born in Bromley, South London, to a Pakistani father, Rafiushan (Shanoo) Kureishi, and an English mother, Audrey Buss. His father was from a wealthy Madras family, most of whose members moved to Pakistan after the Partition of British India in 1947. Rafiushan came to the UK in 1950 to study law but for financial reasons worked at the Pakistani embassy instead. Here he met his wife-to-be, Buss. He wanted to be a writer but his ambitions were frustrated. The couple were married, the family settled in Bromley where Kureishi was born. In the interview, Kureishi notes:
My grandfather, an army doctor, was a colonel in the Indian army. Big family. Servants. Tennis court. Cricket. Everything. My father went to the Cathedral School that Salman Rushdie went to. Later, in Pakistan, my family were close to the Bhuttos. My uncle Omar was a newspaper columnist and the manager of the Pakistan cricket team.... My grandfather, the colonel, was terrifying. A hard-living, hard-drinking gambler. Womanising. Around him it was like The Godfather. They drank and they gossiped. The women would come and go.
Hanif Kureishi attended Bromley Technical High School and studied for A-levels at Bromley College of Technology. While at this college he was elected as Student Union President (1972) and some of the characters from his semi-autobiographical work The Buddha of Suburbia are from this period. He went on to spend a year studying philosophy at Lancaster University before dropping out. Later he attended King's College London and took a degree in philosophy. Career
Kureishi started his career in the 1970s as a pornography writer, under the pseudonyms Antonia French and Karim. He went on to write plays for the Hampstead Theatre, Soho Poly and by the age of 18 was with the Royal Court. He wrote My Beautiful Laundrette in 1985, a screenplay about a gay Pakistani-British boy growing up in 1980s London for a film directed by Stephen Frears. The screenplay, especially the racial discrimination experienced, contained elements from Hanif's own experiences as the only Pakistani student in his class. It won the New York Film Critics Best Screenplay Award and an Academy Award nomination for Best Screenplay. He also wrote the screenplay for Sammy and Rosie Get Laid (1987). His book The Buddha of Suburbia (1990) won the Whitbread Award for the best first novel and was made into a BBC television series with a soundtrack by David Bowie. 1991 saw the release of the feature film entitled London Kills Me, written and directed by Kureishi.
His novel Intimacy (1998) revolved around the story of a man leaving his wife and two young sons after feeling physically and emotionally rejected by his wife. This created some controversy as Kureishi had recently left his own partner (the editor and producer Tracey Scoffield) and two young sons; it was assumed to be at least semi-autobiographical. In 2000/2001 the novel was adapted to a movie Intimacy by Patrice Chéreau, which won two Bears at the Berlin Film Festival: a Golden Bear for Best Film and a Silver Bear for Best Actress (Kerry Fox). It was controversial for its explicit sex scenes. The book was translated into Persian by Niki Karimi in 2005.
Kureishi's drama The Mother was adapted to a movie by Roger Michell, which won a joint First Prize in the Director’s Fortnight section at Cannes Film Festival. It showed a cross-generational relationship with changed roles: a seventy-year-old English lady and grandmother (played by Anne Reid) who seduces her daughter's boyfriend (played by Daniel Craig), a thirty-year-old craftsman. Explicit sex scenes were shown in realistic drawings only, thus avoiding censorship. His 2006 screenplay Venus saw Oscar, BAFTA, Screen Actors Guild, Broadcast Film Critics Association and Golden Globe nominations for Peter O'Toole in the best actor category.
A novel entitled Something to Tell You was published in 2008. His 1995 novel The Black Album, adapted for the theatre, was performed at the National Theatre in July and August 2009. In May 2011, he was awarded the second Asia House Literature Award on the closing night of the Asia House Literary Festival where he discussed his Collected Essays (Faber). Personal life
Kureishi is married to Tracey Scoffield and they have twin boys and a younger son. Kureishi now lives in West London. He was appointed Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) in the 2008 New Year Honours. In 2013, Kureishi lost his life savings, intended to cover "the ups and downs of being a writer", in a suspected fraud.
Kureishi's family have accused him of exploiting them with thinly disguised references in his work; Kureishi has denied the claims. His sister Yasmin has accused him of selling her family "down the line". She wrote, in a letter to The Guardian, that if her family's history had to become public, she would not stand by and let it be "fabricated for the entertainment of the public or for Hanif's profit". She says that his description of her family's working-class roots are fictitious. Their grandfather was not "cloth cap working class", their mother never worked in a shoe factory, and their father, she says, was not a bitter old man. Yasmin takes up issues with her brother not merely for his thinly disguised autobiographical references in his first novel, The Buddha of Suburbia, but also for the image of his own past that he portrays in newspaper interviews. She wrote: "My father was angry when The Buddha of Suburbia came out as he felt that Hanif had robbed him of his dignity, and he didn't speak to Hanif for about a year." Kureishi and his father did not speak for many months during the controversy. There was further furore with the publication of Intimacy, as the story was assumed to be autobiographical.
In 2013 Kureishi was appointed as a professor in the creative writing department at Kingston University in London, where he was a Writer in Residence. However, at The Independent Bath Literature Festival, 2 March 2014, he stated that creative writing courses were a "waste of time" and commented that 99.9 per cent of his students were talentless. In 2014 the British Library announced that they would be acquiring the archive of Kureishi's documents spanning 40 years of his writing life. The body of work will include diaries, notebooks and drafts.
Major influences Kureishi's writing include P. G. Wodehouse and Philip Roth. Kureishi's uncle was the writer Omar Kureishi. The poet Maki Kureishi is his aunt. Awards and honours
- 1980 Thames Television Playwright Award, The Mother Country
- 1981 George Devine Award, Outskirts
- 1986 New York Film Critics Circle Award for Best Screenplay for My Beautiful Laundrette
- 1986 Academy Award nomination for Best Screenplay for My Beautiful Laundrette
- 1990 Whitbread First Novel Award, The Buddha of Suburbia
- 2007 National Short Story Competition, shortlist for "Weddings and Beheadings"
- 2008 Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE)
- 2010 PEN/Pinter Prize
- 2013 Outstanding Achievement in the Arts at The Asian Awards.
Written works Novels
- 1990 The Buddha of Suburbia. London: Faber and Faber.
- 1995 The Black Album. London: Faber and Faber.
- 1998 Intimacy (book). London: Faber and Faber.
- 2001 Gabriel's Gift. London: Faber and Faber.
- 2003 The Body. London: Faber and Faber.
- 2008 Something to Tell You. London: Faber and Faber.
- 2014 The Last Word. London: Faber and Faber.
- 1997 Love in a Blue Time London: Faber and Faber.
- 1999 Midnight All Day. London: Faber and Faber.
Plays and screenplays
- 1980 The King and Me. London: Faber and Faber.
- 1981 Outskirts. London: Faber and Faber.
- 1981 Borderline. London: Faber and Faber.
- 1983 Birds of Passage. London: Faber and Faber.
- 1988 Sammy and Rosie Get Laid. London: Faber and Faber.
- 1991 London Kills Me. London: Faber and Faber.
- 1996 My Beautiful Laundrette and other writings. London: Faber and Faber.
- 1997 My Son The Fanatic. London: Faber and Faber.
- 1999 Hanif Kureishi Plays One. London: Faber and Faber.
- 1999 Sleep With Me. London: Faber and Faber.
- 2002 Collected Screenplays Volume I. London: Faber and Faber.
- 2003 The Mother. London: Faber and Faber.
- 2007 Venus. London: Faber and Faber.
- 2009 The Black Album (adapted from the novel). London: Faber and Faber.
- 2002 Dreaming and Scheming: Reflections on Writing and Politics
- 2004 My Ear at His Heart. London: Faber and Faber.
- 2005 Word And The Bomb . London: Faber and Faber.
- 1995 The Faber Book of Pop. London: Faber and Faber.
- 1985 My Beautiful Laundrette
- 1987 Sammy and Rosie Get Laid
- 1991 London Kills Me (and director)
- 1993 The Buddha of Suburbia (television miniseries, based on the novel)
- 1997 My Son the Fanatic (based on his own short story of the same title)
- 1999 Mauvaise passe (fr) (aka The Escort, aka The Wrong Blonde) (with Michel Blanc)
- 2003 The God of Small Tales (short) (with Akram Khan)
- 2003 The Mother (adapted from the play)
- 2006 Venus
- 2007 Weddings and Beheadings (2007)
- 2013 Le Week-End