Hanif Kureishi grew up in Kent, England, and studied philosophy at King’s College London. The Buddha of Suburbia was awarded the Whitbread Award for best first novel in 1990 and three years later was adapted as a BBC mini-series with a soundtrack composed by David Bowie. In 2008, The Times included Kureishi in their list of ‘The 50 greatest British writers since 1945.’
According to Simon Robb, The Buddha of Suburbia, which was Hanif Kureishi’s first published novel, remains an important time capsule for teenage life in 1970s London. The book deals with the racial politics of that time; a time when immigrants (such as the Indian immigrant family at the centre of this work) were treated as intruders on British soil (aren’t they still??).
The book’s plot is quite straightforward and there’s no neat resolution, but Kureishi’s blunt treatment of race, politics and sexuality is gripping and he confronts well the uncomfortable home truths about British attitudes towards foreigners. Its coming of age protagonist Karim, a “hybrid” of Asian and English blood, is searching for sex and a sense of belonging in the suburbs. He is torn between wanting acceptance from two camps: white supremacists and alienated immigrants. Meanwhile, his father, the book’s most memorable character, is on a similar path, teaching Buddhist discipline to a generation of ageing hippies, while Karim indulges in drugs and mutual masturbation behind closed doors.
England’s a nice place if you’re rich, but otherwise it’s a fucking swamp of prejudice [and] class confusion…