Friday, June 16, 2006

A small extract from Hanif Kureishi's Intimacy

From the beginning, starting with the girls at school, and the teachers in particular, I have looked at women in shops, on the street, in the bus, at parties, and wondered what it would be like to be with them, and what pleasures we might kindle. At school I would toss my pencil under the teacher's desk in order to crawl underneath and examine her legs. The desultory nature of the education system enabled me to develop an enthusiastic interest in girl's skirts-in the material and texture, and in whether they were billowy, loose or tight, and in which places. Skirts, like theatre curtains later, quickened my curiosity. I wanted to know what was under them. There was waiting, but there was possibility. The skirt was a transitional object; both a thing in itself and a means of getting somewhere else. This became my paradigm of important knowledge. The world is a skirt I want to lift up.

The above extract, from a novella (a short novel) , is worth a mention. I enjoyed it for many reasons, first was the beautiful manner in which the author registers sexual desire from pre-pubescent times and his analogy with theatre, which is another obsession for the character who conjures these lines. I choose to post it on my blog as many hapless visitors to my room have had it read aloud to them in my misplaced enthusiasm of sharing the smooth verbosity of these lines.

The book is Intimacy by Hanif Kureishi. The blurb of the book has this to say: Jay, the narrator of Intimacy, tells his story on the night he is preparing to leave his lover, Susan, and their two boys. Stripping away all posturing and self justification, Hanif Kureishi explores the fears and desires that drive a man to leave a woman.

Kureishi is a writer I discovered inadvertently on the footpaths of Delhi's DaryaGanj's famous Sunday book bazaar, when I bought his first novel, The Buddha of Suburbia, for about thirty five rupees while I was in college. Kureishi's father is South Asian and his mother British. His writings reflect his explorations of relationships and racial attitudes. His latest publication is titled, My Ear at his heart, a biography of his father who also had ambitions to write. My Ear at his heart is a very poignant, tender tribute written around his father's text. Kureishi is described as a Playwright, screenwriter, novelist and film-maker. His screenplay for the film My Beautiful Laundrette was nominated for an Academy Award. He also wrote the screenplays for Sammy and Rosie Get Laid and London Kills Me , which he also directed. His film My Son the Fanatic was adapted from his short story included in Love in a Blue Time.


xanjukta said...

I was waiting for someone to start writing comments... Come on boys, spill your pre-pubescent dreams and fantasies out...

Anyway, can't wait any longer, am leaving for home for a couple of weeks starting tomorrow. So I shall begin this..whatever.. then...

I think that is a wonderful passage by Kureishi, but it reeks of 20/20 hindsight. I'm not sure adolescents or less have the capacity for those words... feelings are obviously there.

In me, I found boys' pants and what lay beneath fascinating only much later... was too busy with other things for a good part of my early life. I completely agree that we started late.

And now the fascination is morbid, consists of whether there is still some semblance of life under there after all! ;-)

satya said...

Looking back to the days described in the passage, I had no skirts to check our or much legs, for we didnt have women and the teachers who wore skirts were almost granny's.

Thoughts and such instinctive ones were more internal than external, wondering at the pleasure it tingled and the possibilites of the never ending tingle.

I would'nt hesistate to admit that boys were a bigger fantasy than girls for well all the inexcusable reasons.

This extract hit me hard when I reading Intimacy. Not because it sent me back to my teenage years or even my pre pubescent years but rather it reflected very well my late curiosity, rather late as you mentioned. And these words using the skirt as a metaphor beautifully expresses my never ending (I suppose so...atleast vocally) fascination with women.

Then there is that analogy of the skirt and the theatre curtain, which is just so poetically prosaic (yeah) that is over awes my sense of putting together a group of words to express such a thought.

And I decided to post here as, I would keep reading this passage out to the few people I could convince that it is gorgeously brilliant.

xanjukta said...

i don't think it requires any convincing... it is a brillant passage, no doubt!

it portrays emotions at many different levels leaving the reader to comprehend what he or she pleases according to his or her mood at the time. A second reading reveals even more...

wait till i read it the third time!

aya said...

when I read this novel, I got so sad. I thought all the efforts of us to make our life better seem do not work.