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.