Hanif Kureishi: Best Served Cold

Edinburgh International Book Festival

On 22 August 2017

Review by David Chadderton

Hanif Kureishi spoke frankly on several subjects with his usual dry wit when questioned on stage by Steven Gale.

His new book, The Nothing, features a film director who is now old and unable to walk and so looks out at the world. Kureishi says that while old age brings losses, it also brings new pleasures, and he thinks one is to be observing the world—he told us he has a pair of binoculars on his writing desk for observing the neighbours and loves salacious gossip.

Now aged 60, he said for the first time he has had an idea for a project which he has decided it is too late for him to write. On the other hand, he doesn't have to do anything any more as he doesn't have to think about earning a living or kids or anything. However the desire to create art doesn't leave you and the ideas pursue you, but writing is a beautiful thing as you can do it anywhere at any time.

When asked about writing non-sympathetic characters, he said that bad characters are the best—he said you can't wait for Desdemona to get strangled, but Iago is another matter. He believes that American TV really perked up when they abandoned the idea of the sympathetic character. It isn't a compliment to be called "nice".

He also spoke frankly about being robbed by his accountant, whom he called every day when he was hiding out in Spain, only to find that all his other victims were doing the same.

On sex, he said libido is the engine that drives you and gives you curiosity, and that no institution is big enough to contain our sexuality.

Finally, he spoke about working with one of his twin sons on a film script and how this enabled him to relate to him as an adult as he can pass on his experience and knowledge and teach him about writing.

The Nothing by Hanif Kureishi is out now in hardcover.