Hanif Kureishi

Hanif Kureishi

Hanif Kureishi speaking in the Michael C. Carlos Museum at Emory University on 8 September 2008
Born (1954-12-05) 5 December 1954[1]
Kent, England
Occupation Playwright, screenwriter, novelist, film director
Alma mater King's College London
Period 1976 – present
Literary movement Postcolonial literature


Hanif Kureishi, CBE (born 5 December 1954) is a British playwright, screenwriter, filmmaker and novelist of Pakistani and English descent.[1] In 2008, The Times included Kureishi in their list of "The 50 greatest British writers since 1945".[2]

Early life

Kureishi was born in Bromley, South London, to a Pakistani father, Rafiushan (Shanoo) Kureishi, and an English mother, Audrey Buss.[1][3][4] 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[5] to study law but for financial reasons worked at the Pakistani embassy instead.[4] Here he met his wife-to-be, Buss. He wanted to be a writer but his ambitions were frustrated.[3] The couple were married, the family settled in Bromley where Kureishi was born. In 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.[3]

Hanif Kureishi attended Bromley Technical High School and studied for A-levels at Bromley College of Technology.[6] 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.[6] Later he attended King's College London and took a degree in philosophy.[6]


Kureishi started his career in the 1970s as a pornography writer,[7][8] under the pseudonyms Antonia French[9] and Karim.[10] He went on to write plays for the Hampstead Theatre, Soho Poly and by the age of 18 was with the Royal Court.[3] 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).[11]

Kureishi has also written non-fiction, including autobiography. As noted by Cathy Galvin in The Telegraph: "But at the core of his life, as described in his memoir, My Ear at His Heart, is Kureishi’s relationship with his father, Rafiushan, who died in 1991."[12]

Personal life

Kureishi is married to Monique Proudlove and he has twin boys (from his previous relationship with film producer Tracey Scoffield[13]) and a younger son. Kureishi currently lives in West London.[3][6] 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.[14]

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".[3][15] 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."[3] Kureishi and his father did not speak for many months during the controversy.[3] There was further furore with the publication of Intimacy, as the story was assumed to be autobiographical.[3][6]

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.[1] 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.[16] 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.[17]

Major influences on Kureishi's writing include P. G. Wodehouse and Philip Roth.[3] Kureishi's uncle was the writer, columnist and Pakistani cricket commentator and team manager Omar Kureishi.[18] The poet Maki Kureishi is his aunt.[19]

Awards and honours

Written works


Story collections

Collection of stories and essays

Plays and screenplays


As editor



Story basis only

2001 Intimacy


2006 Souvenir

Further reading


  1. 1 2 3 4 "Q&A with Hanif Kureishi", The Times Higher Educational Supplement, 14 November 2013.
  2. The 50 greatest British writers since 1945. 5 January 2008. The Times. Retrieved 20 February 2010.
  3. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 Robert McCrum, "Hanif Kureishi interview: 'Every 10 years you become someone else'", The Observer, 19 January 2014.
  4. 1 2 Emily Ballou, "Whims of the father", The Australian, 15 November 2008.
  5. Creative media, Five on a bike. "Interview - Hanif Kureishi in conversation with Kenan Malik". https://www.youtube.com. You Tube. Retrieved 19 December 2014. External link in |website= (help)
  6. 1 2 3 4 5 Official website; accessed 14 January 2016.
  7. The New York Times, 10 August 2008.
  8. Interview with Hanif Kureishi, The Book Show, Episode 18, Sky Arts.
  9. Surbhi Sharma (July 2012). Postcolonial Studies Website of English Department, ed. "Kureishi, Hanif". Archived from the original on 6 April 2015. Retrieved 6 April 2015.
  10. Nahem Yousaf. Hanif Kureishi's The Buddha of Suburbia: a reader's guide, p. 8.
  11. April Gow. "Asia House". Diplomat Magazine. Retrieved 6 June 2013.
  12. Cathy Galvin, "Hanif Kureishi: the pariah of suburbia", The Telegraph, 13 December 2012.
  13. http://www.standard.co.uk/lifestyle/london-life/hanif-kureishi-i-had-to-write-about-the-theft-it-was-all-that-was-left-to-me-10295457.html. Missing or empty |title= (help)
  14. Brignall, Miles; Jones, Rupert (3 May 2013). "Author Hanif Kureishi loses life savings to suspected fraud". The Guardian.
  15. "Author's Sister Writes Next Chapter in Kureishi Family Feud". Poets & Writers. 11 March 2008. Retrieved 6 June 2013.
  16. The Independent, 3 March 2014.
  17. "Hanif Kureishi – My Beautiful Film Career", British Library, 2014.
  18. Andreas Athanasiades, "Re-imagining Identity: Revisiting Hanif Kureishi’s My Beautiful Laundrette", University of Cyprus.
  19. B. J. Moore-Gilbert (2001). Hanif Kureishi. Manchester University Press. ISBN 978-0-7190-5535-5.
  20. "Winners at the Asian Awards". Bollyspice.com. 18 April 2013. Retrieved 6 June 2013.
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