Re-thinking Desire: Constructing the Male Self in Hanif Kureishi
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Hanif Kureishi’s work has focused on the shifting and polyvalent manifestations of desire within a socio-political context during the last decades in Britain. The basic contention of such dynamics is that Kureishi’s work interrogates hegemonic discourse on the formation of identities in Britain, as a means of disrupting ongoing discussions on the notion of the nation. Such issues gesture to the complex constitutions of (predominantly male) identity/ies as well as to the way in which, supposedly conflicting, entities can engage in a difficult and complex, yet fruitful relationship, thus enabling them to avoid what are considered by the mainstream as “social abnormalities”. It is true that in Kureishi’s oeuvre, fathers-sons relationships feature predominantly, as the reader comes across certain very interesting father-figure characters whose psychological development and importance reflect the relationship of the author and his own father figures in his real life, given that the circumstances of the author’s personal life are –more often than not– tangential with all of the political, social and theoretical parameters with which his work is concerned. Thus, the interaction between Kureishi’s different identities as a person and as a writer proves to be significant as he is read as a cultural instigator and hence, as an influential contributor to contemporary culture, especially in “creating” and “experiencing” a male self. It is the scope of this article then, to provide a general overview of the workings of the imaginary father-figure characters in a selection of Kureishi’s work, juxtaposing them with their real counterparts, mostly found in his memoir, My Ear at His Heart (2004), in an attempt to follow a trajectory of the argument that it is the author’s personal life circumstances that led to the creation of these characters and, conversely, the author’s preoccupation with literary father figures that culminated to the memoir itself. In other words, it is the basic contention of this paper that in this interaction between imagination and reality, Kureishi’s memoir is the culmination of decades of work vis-a-vis constructing a (male) self and a diasporic identity, seen through the relationship between fathers and sons, both fictional and factual.