Hanif Kureishi: 'If I go to a club, I feel alienated from it in a way I've never done before'


Life begins at 40, reckons HANIF KURESHI, so it's time to put aside adolescent concerns and discover the adult within. The result is Love In A Blue Time, a set of short stories about love and hate.

Words: Teddy Jamieson

12 THE usr Ant 7 Apr 199/

(}R()\\'l.\'(i t'l’ HAS become a rather titt- lashionable concept these days. Put it down to the current cult ol the lad or the lact that. now pop culture is king. yotttlt rules. Whatever the reason. it‘s no longer only rock stars who are keen to stretch tlteir adolescence ottt to pensionable age. .\'o one wants to be art adult anymore.

‘\\'e have such long periods ol youth.‘ llattil Kureishi concurs. ‘You‘re a student. and alter that a lot ol people continue to live like students. And then.‘ he adds. ‘you wake up.‘

That awakening is at the heart ol Kttreishi's latest book. Love In .-\ Blue lime. a collection ol short stories which look at the hleary morning alter adolescence. This is when yott realise. as the author pttts it. ‘hanging around. takittg drttgs is kind oletttpty attd isn't going to give you attytlting anytnore. attd you‘ve got to make sense ol your lile.‘

Not that the various thirtysomethings who make up the hulk ol the cast ol hire [/1 A Blue lime ltave stopped indulging itt sex attd drugs and alcohol. or replaced the Stones with \lantovani on their record decks. lt’s just that Kttrcislti's characters are no longer certain wlty they're bothering.

That uncertainty is what many ol the stories explore. Roy. the central character ol the

(almost) title story. In A Blue Time. tags along with his lriend Jimmy. paying lip-service to their hedonistic past while increasingly lacing tip to middle-age lears of failure and thwarted ambition. This is a change of tack lor Kttreishi. best known lor characters like Karim in The Buddha Q/‘.S'ttl2tti'l)i(t who are cocksure in their yottthlttl promise. The reason is obvious enough. Kureishi is getting on.

‘l‘m 40 now.‘ he admits. ‘You tend to write lrom where you are. So The Buddha and The Blue/e Album are about young men and now my stttll is more about middle age. Onc‘s writing becomes a sort ol diary or record of one’s own preoccupation. it‘s not really directly a representation ol my experiences. bttt ol my thottght.’

When he was a teenager. llanil Kureishi‘s dream was to leave the dreary South London subttrb ol his youth behind him and head lor the Big City to become a writer. Alter reading philosophy at London‘s King‘s College. he did just that. becoming writer-in-residence at the Royal Court Theatre in 1982 belore gaining wider public attention with his much acclaimed screenplay. My Beautiful Luuru/relte the story ol a love allair between a young Asian businessman and his lormer skinhead bodyguard.

As you‘d expect lrom a man with a philosophy degree. Kureishi has always been uufut'r with high culture. bttt what marked him ottt in the 1980s were his bawdy accounts of Anglo-Asian culture. his political frankness and pre-Hornby and Welsh his love ol pop culture. Ten years on. Love In A Blue Time suggests Kttreishi may be shedding some ol his old preoccupations. He approaches pop culture with rather more caution now.

‘Well. I don‘t understand it anymore.‘ he says. ‘ll I go to a clttb. I don't know why they're wearing those clothes or listening to that music. | leel alienated lrom it in a way I‘ve never done belore. I don‘t understand the words they‘re saying. and that‘s never happened to me belore.‘

Bttt belore we hand him his pipe and slippers. it's worth pointing out that. ol the new stories. Title Of The Tun] is as scatological as the title suggests. while Flies would leave David Cronenberg green-eyed. And perhaps the best story in the collection. We 're N0! .lett-s. told lrom the point ol view ol a young boy. is a brilliantly chilling account ol casttal racism. Another story. My Sun The li'unuu'e. ittverts the cliche ol lather- son conllict by having the sort play the role ol lrownittg onlooker. lollowing his conversion to Islam. It has lormed the basis ol Kttrcishi‘s next lilm script. directed by Udayan Prasad lor the BBC and dttc lor an autttmn release.

A new novel. [Ill/HHH‘)‘. will lollow next year. His teenage dream continues to come true. it would seem. The question is. has it lived up to his adolescent hopes'.’ ‘()h. tnore so. It‘s wonderlul. London‘s a great city and it‘s always exciting in its variety. pace and beauty. ()ne‘s dreams seemed rather lacking.‘

Perhaps growing up isn‘t such a bad idea alter all.

Love In A Blue Time by Hanif Kureishi is published by Faber and Faber at £8.99. Kureishi is at the Assembly Rooms, Edinburgh, Mon 28 Apr, 7.30pm, £3 (£1).