(From the Times Literary Supplement. Link to the complete article is given below.)
“What, then, shall that language be? One-half of the committee maintain that it should be the English. The other half strongly recommend the Arabic and Sanscrit. The whole question seems to me to be – which language is the best worth knowing?” So asked Lord Macaulay of the British Parliament on February 2, 1835. He went on, of course, to answer his own question; there was no way that the natives of the subcontinent over which they now ruled could be “educated by means of their mother-tongue”, in which “there are no books on any subject that deserve to be compared to our own”. And even if there had been, it did not matter, for English “was pre-eminent even among languages of the West”. English, it was decided, would be the language that would be taught to the natives. By 1837, English replaced Persian as the language of courtrooms and official business in Muslim India and took with it the cultural ascendancy of the Persian speakers.
This sordid story of tainted beginnings is aptly recounted in Muneeza Shamsie’s Hybrid Tapestries: The development of Pakistani literature in English, which traces the history of an often vexed but always intriguing literary lineage from the nineteenth century until today. It is a tricky tale to tell, not least because the moment of origin is also the moment of imposition and conquest. The development of Pakistani literature is directly linked to those deposed Muslims and their cherished Persian, which adds further flavours of resentment and betrayal to the mixture. The Indian Muslims who had dominated cultural production until then felt the demotion, and hence the inauthenticity and subjugation of adopting a foreign language, more acutely; Hindus less so, perhaps because they were merely exchanging one set of conquerors for another. The bifurcation, with each group turning to a different vernacular language to anchor their evolving identity, would have more than just linguistic consequences: it would result in two separate nation states.
Read more at the TLS page here
(From The Guardian. Link to the complete article given below)
The furore over Penguin’s wise and brave decision to “reflect the diversity of British society” in its publishing and hiring output seems to have awoken the usual knuckle-dragging, semi-blind suspects with their endlessly repeated terrors and fears. They appear to believe that what is called “diversity” or “positive action” will lead to a dilution of their culture. Their stupidity and the sound of their pathetic whining would be funny if it weren’t so tragic for Britain. You might even want to call it a form of self-loathing; it is certainly unpatriotic and lacking in generosity.
The industries I’ve worked in for most of my life – film, TV, theatre, publishing – have all been more or less entirely dominated by white Oxbridge men, and they still mostly are. These men and their lackeys have been the beneficiaries of positive discrimination, to say the least, for centuries. The world has always been theirs, and they now believe they own it.
Some of us have been fortunate enough to force a way through the maze and make a living as artists. It was a difficult and often humiliating trip, I can tell you. There was much patronisation and many insults on the way, and they are still going on.
The book I am currently reading
The Age of Anger by Pankaj Mishra. He uses Nietzsche’s Genealogy of Morals to help understand why everyone is so pissed off these days. He has a good theory, the Nietzschean idea of resentment – the fury of people who are excluded – and uses this to talk about radical Islam and Brexit. You could also apply it to Trump.
The book that changed my life
James Baldwin’s The Fire Next Time. As a teenager from a mixed race background, I struggled with issues of race and identity and Baldwin had related all this to the race politics of his day. It gave me ideas of what I might write.
The book I wish I’d written
Frederick Seidel’s collected poems – they always make me laugh and they always move me. As I get older I read more and more poetry.
The book that influenced my writing
Jack Kerouac’s On the Road. When I was a teenager and read it in my bedroom in Bromley, I thought this was a book for now – leaving the inheritance of the postwar settlement and making a new world. It inspired me.
The book that is most underrated
I recently found a wonderful book by Georges Simenon in a secondhand bookshop. It’s called The Train, and is about a man cut off from his family in Belgium at the outbreak of the war who begins a relationship with a woman he meets on a train. It’s about the fracturing of war and the possibility of love. Because of Maigret, people write Simenon off as a formulaic writer. To me he’s as good as Camus.
By Lucy Scholes
A Hanif Kureishi novel with an elderly, incapacitated and impotent protagonist, there’s something I never thought I’d read, but here he is. Waldo was a once celebrated film director, who used to run with the great and the good, his now defunct study a shrine to his illustrious life and career: Baftas, “birthday cards from Bowie and Iman,” a photo with Joe Strummer. Vanished is his “fuckability,” that “ass you’d pay to bite”; these days he’s not so much a shell of the man he once was, but rather the bloated carcass. Obese, weak and riddled with illness – “diabetes, prostate cancer, an ulcer, early MS, constipation, diarrhea and only one good hip, a cough, phobias, addictions, obsessions and hypochondria” – he’s bed- or wheelchair-bound: Rear Window’s L. B. Jefferies played by a late career Marlon Brando.
Spying on his neighbours passes the time – “I sit here like a large fly at the windowpane, investigating fantastic lands across the way” – but the object of his obsession is his wife, Zee. She’s twenty-two years younger, and the only woman he’s ever truly loved, the “one whose body I enjoyed more than any other,” (including those “magical fucks” of his LSD-tinged, California commune days with the “live-in lesbians”). Now, however, Waldo suspects she’s making a cuckold of him with his sort-of friend Eddie: a freeloading throwback from old Soho, a “dirty-minded raconteur” who’s a sucker for celebrities, “his voice smoky with public-school corruption and changing-room decadence.” Read more
Working in academia helps many writers in this regard, and Kureishi is no exception, holding a professorship in creative writing at Kingston University London. One can imagine, then, the reaction when in 2014, he told an audience at the Bath Literature Festival that he believed creative writing courses were a “waste of time”. Is this still his view?
“Yes and no. I think they’re a waste of time in that they confer an academic credibility on something that’s much more like rock and roll, more spontaneous and less conventional. On the other hand, I’d value the relationship between the teacher and the writer, the teacher and the student, so I’d never dismiss that. I’ve had people in my life — writers, editors, directors — who’ve taught me a great deal so I wouldn’t discount that but I wouldn’t necessarily put it in an academic context.
“But I’m a professor in a university myself and it’s part of how we make a living as writers. Also some of the students are really good, but in my lifetime the university system has become a bit of a supermarket, it’s about extracting money from students rather than giving them value. I deplore that and I think many teachers feel we’re just screwing the students. My kids have university fees of £9,000 and they’re in debt, having left university, to the tune of almost £40,000.”
Being robbed of his life savings and falling in love seem to have mellowed author Hanif Kureishi, he tells Katie Law: London Evening Standard
The author celebrates creativity in this collection — but knows that fantasy can be dangerous: FT
Hanif Kureishi’s first essay in Love + Hate, “Anarchy and the Imagination”, was originally published in 2014 as “What they don’t teach you at creative writing school”, two months before Kureishi appeared at Bath Literature Festival and outraged “talentless” creative writing students by declaring such courses to be a “waste of time”. His role as their teacher was “part-mentor, part-therapist”. More interesting than the provocation and predictable uproar was his contention that a focus on the texture of sentences distracted students from thinking about how to entertain a reader with story and imaginative ideas. Read more
Hanif Kureishi has won a huge number of awards in his career, and was Oscar nominated for his screen writing.
Sarah Waters, Nicholson Baker, Deepti Kapoor and Hanif Kureishi discuss contemporary writers’ struggles with sex, and radical Islam’s obsession with pleasure: The Guardian
The distortion of sex, particularly in the Muslim world, is “a political issue” which is one of the most important challenges facing writers today, Hanif Kureishi told a packed audience at the Jaipur literature festival on Friday.
Speaking alongside novelists Nicholson Baker, Sarah Waters and Deepti Kapoor in a session titled “Basic instinct”, he argued radical Islam thinks about pleasure “all the time … but it thinks about it from a negative perspective”. Read more