An ageing Professor of Literature is approached by one of his readers to undergo a procedure that will give him the body of a 25 year old Adonis on a sixth month loan….
Hanif Kureishi is best known for his wonderful screenplays such as Sammy and Rosie Get Laid, My Beautiful Launderette and most recently the magnificent geri-comedy Venus.
In addition he was the first mainstream writer to grasp the nettle of Islamo Extremism and it’s effect on the second generation of immigrants, with 1997’s My Son the Fanatic starring Om Puri (obviously) and Brenda Griffiths, who found fame in Six Feet Under.
This film demonstrated clearly the dichotomy facing the children of sub continental immigrants who, spurned by the indigenous population seek identity via a form of religion that is far from mainstream British Society, thus reinforcing the separation that they feel.
I witnessed this in Northern Ireland where otherwise educated and reasonable young people sought validation on the fringes (and sometimes within) the Republican Movement. They felt disenfranchised and excluded from the Orange Statelet with it’s overtly supremacist ethos, failing to understand that it was a matter of Class rather than ethnicity and that their Protestant neighbours were just as oppressed by the Capitalist system. They just had poverty with an inside toilet.
Hanif Kureishi, whilst addressing issues from his Sub Continental identity has never made himself some self appointed voice of British Asians and writes about everyday British situations, especially the ageing process in Venus where Peter O’Toole, Leslie Phillips and Richard Griffiths discuss seventy something male problems in hilariously graphic detail.
He is a talented storyteller who keeps it simple, and you can see where he has influenced young writers such as Kazu Ishiguro and Monica Ali.
The Body pulled me in with the characters ordinariness being supplemented by slightly surreal, absurd, mundane, fantastic and erotic circumstances as our hero embarks on his new life, but with his old personality and life experiences.
In this age of obsession with body image, Kureishi discusses what it means to grow old, and how marriage, parenthood and the passage of time change our expectations and aspirations.
Matters, predictably do not go as planned and the comedy and pathos just jump from the page because of his laconic, spare style.
A really fantastic book which would provide a good template for a Channel Four drama.
This book was stocked in a rather bizarre section entitled Books for Blokes in Hull Central Library. What does THAT mean? Obviously we have no interest in Monica Ali, Zadie Smith or Andrea Levy…