Academic journal article International Research Journal of Arts and Humanities

Something to Tell You: Spaces for Dialogue in Postcolorial London

Academic journal article International Research Journal of Arts and Humanities

Something to Tell You: Spaces for Dialogue in Postcolorial London

Article excerpt

Something to Tell You, Kureishi's flawed but enjoyable fifth novel, centers around the attempts of the mixed-race character Jamal to prevent the coming to light of a violent act of his youth. The novel flashes back to the "mid-1970s" (Kureishi 2008: 31) to recount Jamal' s relationship with Ajita, a wealthy Indian student, who eventually confesses to her sexual abuse at the hands of her father. So angered is Jamal by her story that he enlists the help of two friends, Wolf and Valentin, and they resolve to rough up the father. Things do not go according to plan, however, as Ajita's father assumes the three are trade union activists angry at his draconian behavior as a factory boss, and he dies of a heart attack in the middle of the altercation. Wolf and Valentin flee to France, while Ajita, distraught about her father's death, relocates to Bombay; and Jamal spends the next few decades living in fear of his "murder" being exposed. Flash forward to the early 2000s, and Jamal is now a successful psychoanalyst and writer with a pre-teenage son, Rafi, from a failed marriage.

An important sub-plot is summarized in Jamal' s statement: "My older sister, Miriam, and my best friend, Henry, have conceived a passion for each other" (Kureishi 2008: 4). This unlikely couple consists of the defiantly working-class, new-agey, tattooed mother of countless children, Miriam, and Henry, a renowned theatre and film director. We watch the couple engage in some typically Kureishian sexual play, before discovering the charms of London's fetish clubs, such as the Kama Sutra club, known as the "Caramel Sootie." At a Rolling Stones backstage party attended by Jamal, Miriam and Henry, Jamal is accosted by Ajita's brother Mustaq (now a famous pop musician) who recognizes a watch that he stole from his father at the time of the attack. Mustaq invites Jamal to a hedonistic weekend party at his extravagant country pile, which is attended by such intertextual celebrities as the actor Karim Amir and punk idol Charlie Hero (both characters from Kureishi' s first novel The Buddha of Suburbia), and the Muslim peer Lord Omar Ali (from Kureishi's 1985 film, My Beautiful Laundrette). Here Mustaq has arranged for Jamal to meet his sister, Ajita, for the first time since the murder. To put the siblings off the scent, Jamal explains that he acquired their father's watch when the latter sexually abused him in the 1970s. This justification passes muster, and Ajita and he re-embark upon an emotional but this time curiously asexual relationship. Their growing closeness is ruptured when Wolf reappears on the scene. He tries to blackmail Jamal about the part he played in Ajita's father's murder, claiming that the incident ruined both his and Valentin's lives (the latter has committed suicide). He also becomes Ajita's lover, much to Jamal' s jealousy, and is employed as a bouncer and some time drug-dealer at Jamal' s regular haunt, the strip pub The Cross Keys. It is only after Wolfs convenient death, also of a heart attack, that Jamal admits to the remarkably forgiving Ajita what happened to her father. The novel concludes in shell-shocked post-7/7 London where Jamal rather solipsistically considers his future:

I am no longer young, and not yet old. I have reached the age of wondering how I will live, and what I will do, with my remaining time and desire. I know at least that I need to work, that I want to read and think and write, and to eat and talk with friends and colleagues. (Kureishi 2008: 345)

This paper addresses three over-arching issues from Hanif Kurerishi's novel. Firstly, we discuss Kureishi' s male protagonist, Jamal' s, loving relationship with the Indian girl Ajita as compared to his psychological identification with the white, non-Muslim women, Josephine, Karen and the Goddess. We discuss his "encounters" with these women through the lens of Sara Ahmed's theories of bodily encounters. Secondly, we discuss the strange or failed relationships between inter-cultural couples in the novel as their desire to create a space for dialogue with other cultures. …

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