Hanif Kureishi

Kureishi in 2008
Kureishi in 2008
Born (1954-12-05) 5 December 1954 (age 69)[1]
Bromley, Kent, England
OccupationPlaywright, screenwriter, novelist, film director
EducationBromley College of Technology
Alma materKing's College London
Literary movementPostcolonial literature
Notable worksMy Beautiful Laundrette
The Buddha of Suburbia

Hanif Kureishi CBE (born 5 December 1954)[2] is a British playwright, screenwriter, filmmaker and novelist of South Asian and English descent.[1][3] In 2008, The Times included Kureishi in its list of the 50 greatest British writers since 1945.[4]

Early life

Kureishi was born on 5 December 1954 in Bromley, South London to a Pakistani father, Rafiushan (Shanoo) Kureishi, and an English mother, Audrey Buss.[1][5][6] His father was from a wealthy family based in Madras (now Chennai), whose members moved to Pakistan after the Partition of India in 1947.

Rafiushan traveled to the UK in 1950[7] to study law, but he ran out of money and needed to take a desk job at the Pakistani embassy instead.[5][6] There he met his wife-to-be, Audrey Buss, "a young lower-middle-class suburban woman".[8] He wanted to be a writer but his ambitions were frustrated, "eking out a life of permanent disappointment, writing novels on the kitchen table, but getting turned down."[5][5] After the couple married, they settled in Bromley, where their son Hanif Kureishi was born.

In an interview, Kureishi notes:

My [paternal] grandfather, an army doctor, was a colonel in the British 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.[5]

Hanif Kureishi attended Bromley Technical High School and studied for A-levels at Bromley College of Technology.[9] While at this college, he was elected as student union president (1972). Some of the characters from his semi-autobiographical novel, The Buddha of Suburbia, are drawn from this period.[3] He spent a year studying philosophy at Lancaster University, then withdrew.[9] Later he attended King's College London[2] and earned a degree in philosophy.[9]


Kureishi started his career in the 1970s as a pornography writer,[10][11] under the pseudonyms Antonia French[12] and Karim.[13] He went on to write plays for the Hampstead Theatre, Soho Poly, and by the age of 18, was with the Royal Court.[5] He wrote My Beautiful Laundrette in 1985, 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 experiences as the only Pakistani student in his class at school. It won the New York City Film Critics Best Screenplay Award and an Academy Award nomination for Best Original 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 titled 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 recently had 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 into the film 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 as a film 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 a reversal of expected roles: a 70-year-old English grandmother (played by Anne Reid) seduces her daughter's boyfriend (played by Daniel Craig), a 30-year-old craftsman. Explicit sex scenes were shown in realistic drawings only, thus avoiding censorship. He wrote the 2006 screenplay Venus, and for his performance in this movie, Peter O'Toole received Oscar, BAFTA, Screen Actors Guild, Broadcast Film Critics Association and Golden Globe nominations in the best actor category.[citation needed]

A novel titled 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).[14]

Kureishi has 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."[15]

Major influences on Kureishi's writing include P.G. Wodehouse and Philip Roth.[5]

Personal life

Kureishi, who is bisexual,[16] lives in West London.[5][9] His entry in Who's Who lists his recreations as "music, cricket, sitting in pubs".[2]

He has twin boys (from his relationship with film producer Tracey Scoffield[17]) and a younger son. Although he acknowledges his father's Pakistani roots (originating in Madras, in British India, present-day Chennai, India), he rarely visits Pakistan. Upon a 2012 visit sponsored by the British Council, he acknowledged that it was his first trip to Pakistan in 20 years.[18] Kureishi's uncle was the writer, columnist and Pakistani cricket commentator and team manager Omar Kureishi.[19] The poet Maki Kureishi was his aunt.[20]

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".[5][21] 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 issues with her brother for his thinly disguised autobiographical references in his first novel The Buddha of Suburbia as well as 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."[5] Kureishi and his father did not speak for many months during the controversy.[5] There was further furore with the publication of Intimacy as the story was assumed to be autobiographical.[5][9]

He was appointed Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) in the 2008 New Year Honours for services to Literature and Drama.[22][23]

In early 2013, Kureishi lost his life savings, intended to cover "the ups and downs of being a writer", in a suspected fraud.[24] In October of that year, 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% of his students were talentless.[25]

In 2014, the British Library announced that it would be acquiring the archive of Kureishi's documents spanning 40 years of his writing life. The body of work was to include diaries, notebooks and drafts.[26]

On 26 December 2022, Kureishi was hospitalised following a fall in Rome, which left him with spinal injuries and unable to move his limbs.[27] According to Kureishi, the fall triggered a near-death experience. He was convinced he was going to die while in hospital.[28] Kureishi stated that his partner, Isabella d'Amico, helped keep him calm and saved his life.[29] He has since written about the fall and his recovery process on social media and in a blog.[30]

Awards and honours

Written works


Story collections

Collection of stories and essays

Plays and screenplays


As editor


Kureishi's films include:[34][35]


Story basis only



  1. ^ a b c d Elmes, John (14 November 2013). "Q&A with Hanif Kureishi". timeshighereducation.co.uk. Times Higher Education. Archived from the original on 7 March 2016.
  2. ^ a b c Anon (2017). "Kureishi, Hanif". Who's Who (online Oxford University Press ed.). Oxford: A & C Black. doi:10.1093/ww/9780199540884.013.U23470. (Subscription or UK public library membership required.)
  3. ^ a b Lawley, Sue (1996). "Hanif Kureishi: Desert Island Discs". bbc.co.uk. "I write really in order to keep myself alive, to interest myself to find out what I think"
  4. ^ "The 50 greatest British writers since 1945". The Times. 5 January 2008. Archived from the original on 11 May 2008.
  5. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l Kureishi, Hanif (19 January 2014). "Hanif Kureishi interview: 'Every 10 years you become someone else'". The Observer (Interview). Interviewed by Robert McCrum. Archived from the original on 26 December 2016. Retrieved 11 December 2016.
  6. ^ a b Emily Ballou, "Whims of the father", The Australia, 15 November 2008.
  7. ^ Creative media, Five on a bike. "Interview – Hanif Kureishi in conversation with Kenan Malik". youtube.com. You Tube. Archived from the original on 12 December 2021. Retrieved 19 December 2014.
  8. ^ Lacher, Irene (25 May 1990). "No Fear He May Offend : Literary bad boy Hanif Kureishi knows that the racial and sexual themes in his works will scandalize many. But those elements, he says, reflect the realities of a diverse, changing world". Los Angeles Times. Archived from the original on 7 July 2022. Retrieved 6 January 2023.
  9. ^ a b c d e Official website Archived 6 September 2017 at the Wayback Machine; accessed 14 January 2016.
  10. ^ Donadio, Rachel (8 August 2008). "My Beautiful London". The New York Times. Archived from the original on 5 December 2021. Retrieved 5 December 2021.
  11. ^ Interview with Hanif Kureishi, The Book Show, Episode 18, Sky Arts.
  12. ^ Sharma, Surbhi (May 2017) [Originally published fall 1997]. "Kureishi, Hanif". Postcolonial Studies @ Emory. Archived from the original on 6 April 2015.
  13. ^ Nahem Yousaf. Hanif Kureishi's The Buddha of Suburbia: a reader's guide, p. 8.
  14. ^ Gow, April. "Asia House". Diplomat Magazine. Archived from the original on 3 October 2011. Retrieved 6 June 2013.
  15. ^ Cathy Galvin, "Hanif Kureishi: the pariah of suburbia" Archived 16 March 2018 at the Wayback Machine, The Telegraph, 13 December 2012.
  16. ^ Lacher, Irene (25 May 1990). "No Fear He May Offend". Los Angeles Times. Archived from the original on 5 December 2021. Retrieved 5 December 2021.
  17. ^ Law, Katie (3 June 2015). "I had to write about the theft — it was all that was left to me". The London Evening Standard. Archived from the original on 7 November 2017. Retrieved 4 April 2018.
  18. ^ Galvin, Cathy (13 December 2012). "Hanif Kureishi: the pariah of suburbia". Archived from the original on 16 March 2018. Retrieved 4 April 2018 – via www.telegraph.co.uk.
  19. ^ Andreas Athanasiades, "Re-imagining Identity: Revisiting Hanif Kureishi’s My Beautiful Laundrette" Archived 19 December 2014 at the Wayback Machine, University of Cyprus.
  20. ^ B. J. Moore-Gilbert (2001). Hanif Kureishi. Manchester University Press. ISBN 978-0-7190-5535-5. Archived from the original on 5 February 2023. Retrieved 6 December 2020.
  21. ^ "Author's Sister Writes Next Chapter in Kureishi Family Feud". Poets & Writers. 11 March 2008. Archived from the original on 23 February 2014. Retrieved 6 June 2013.
  22. ^ "Hanif Kureishi". Centre de Cultura Contemporània de Barcelona. Archived from the original on 16 September 2018. Retrieved 16 September 2018.
  23. ^ "No. 58557". The London Gazette (Supplement). 29 December 2007.
  24. ^ Brignall, Miles; Jones, Rupert (3 May 2013). "Author Hanif Kureishi loses life savings to suspected fraud". The Guardian. Archived from the original on 9 March 2016. Retrieved 11 December 2016.
  25. ^ The Independent, 3 March 2014.
  26. ^ "Hanif Kureishi – My Beautiful Film Career" Archived 20 February 2014 at the Wayback Machine, British Library, 2014.
  27. ^ Knight, Lucy (6 January 2023). "Hanif Kureishi says he may never be able to walk or hold pen again after fall in Rome". The Guardian. Archived from the original on 6 January 2023. Retrieved 6 January 2023.
  28. ^ "Death was chattering to me, says writer Hanif Kureishi". BBC News. 5 February 2023. Archived from the original on 5 February 2023. Retrieved 5 February 2023.
  29. ^ "Hanif Kureishi says life 'completely changed' after collapse". BBC News. 5 February 2023. Archived from the original on 5 February 2023. Retrieved 5 February 2023.
  30. ^ Newman, Cathy. "'I don't know if I will ever hold a pen again': Hanif Kureishi on the 'hell' of life after his accident". Channel 4. Retrieved 18 July 2023.
  31. ^ "Winners at the Asian Awards". Bollyspice.com. 18 April 2013. Archived from the original on 31 May 2013. Retrieved 6 June 2013.
  32. ^ Kureishi, Hanif (1 March 2011). Collected Essays. Faber & Faber. ISBN 978-0571249831.
  33. ^ Robson, Leo (13 March 2011). "Collected Essays by Hanif Kureishi – review". The Guardian. Archived from the original on 18 September 2017. Retrieved 18 September 2017.
  34. ^ Hanif Kureishi at IMDb Edit this at Wikidata
  35. ^ Hanif Kureishi biography and credits at the BFI's Screenonline

Further reading