Saturday, March 08, 2008

Yasmin has Something to Tell You

So there is a new novel out by my brother ... . I was, of course, relieved to learn from a recent review that the central character's sister wasn't based on me, but appears to be another family member. There is quite a bevy of us now – my mother and father in The Buddha of Suburbia; Uncle Omar, portrayed as an alcoholic in a bedsit in My Beautiful Laundrette, then lauded in Hanif's memoir, My Ear at his Heart; an ex-girlfriend, Sally, who renamed his film Sammy and Rosie Get Laid as "Hanif Gets Paid, Sally gets Exploited". A semi-autobiographical novel, Intimacy (1998) centred around a man leaving his wife and kids for a younger woman. Tracey Scoffield, his ex-partner ("the wife") was not impressed. She stated that the book wasn't a novel: "You may as well call it a fish." There are probably many more...
Yasmin Kureishi speaks out in the Independent about her brother's appropriation of family members as fiction fodder.

Hanif talks about his new novel, Something to Tell You, growing up a non-white kid in London, and family relationships in the Telegraph.

I am a huge Kureishi fan and have read just about everything he's written including screenplays, but this piece really does raise once again the great moral dilemma for writers. How much of your family life should you feel able to put in your work? Is the art in the end more important that whether feelings get hurt? (The question has of course come up on this blog several times before.) And, of course, does Kureishi go too far?

I see an awful lot of self-censorship by writers who say, I can't possibly tell the story while so-and-so is alive ... and a lot of good material that is never likely to be used.

1 comment:

Sharanya said...

What Sharon Olds does (from a Salon interview):

Do you ever wonder what one of your children will think when he or she reads one of your poems that might be, at least in some small way, about them? Or do you wonder about what insight they will have into their mother's life through your work?

It's a wonderful question, and it's not one I can answer, really. Ten years ago I made a vow not to talk about my life. Obviously, the apparently very personal nature of my writing made this seem to me like maybe a good idea, for both sides of the equation -- both for the muses and for the writer. But it's a wonderful and important question. I think the thing that's most important to me about it is this idea that every writer has to decide these things for themselves, and we learn by making mistakes. We learn by finding out, five years later, what we wish we hadn't done. I've worked out this thing I've called "the spectrum of loyalty and betrayal." Which is also the spectrum of silence and song. And at either end, we're in a dangerous state, either to the self, or to others. We all try to fall in the right place in the middle.