Author Hanif Kureishi may never walk or hold a pen again after fall



The celebrated British novelist and screenwriter Hanif Kureishi said late Friday that he does not have control over his limbs and may not be able to hold a pen again after a debilitating fall in Rome on Dec. 26.

The 68-year-old Oscar-nominated screenwriter of “My Beautiful Launderette” described what he called a near-death experience after feeling dizzy while watching a soccer game and sipping beer.

Minutes later, he woke up, “in a pool of blood” and fearing that he had just “three breaths left,” he wrote. Kureishi was found by his partner, Isabella d’Amico, whom he said saved his life.

The author was treated at Gemelli hospital in Rome, where he underwent spinal surgery. He said that there have since been minor improvements in his condition, though “I cannot scratch my nose, make a phone call or feed myself. … As you can imagine, this is both humiliating, degrading and a burden for others.”

The son of a Pakistani migrant and an English woman, Kureishi grew up in the suburbs of London. He has been a writer for more than three decades and is best known for his work on immigrants and race in a postcolonial Britain transforming into a multicultural society.

Kureishi shot to fame with the screenplay for “My Beautiful Launderette,” a 1980s social comedy featuring a gay British Pakistani man that was a critique of prime minister Margaret Thatcher’s policies. The film, which also starred Daniel Day-Lewis, was nominated for a screenwriting Academy Award.

“Hanif Kureishi was once the man who told the world what it’s like to be young and Asian in London,” The Washington Post wrote in a 1999 profile of the author. “ … There were few British Asian authors then, and none who portrayed the London youth culture with such assurance.”

The Times of London in 2008 named him one of the 50 greatest British writers since 1945, alongside Philip Larkin and George Orwell. And author Zadie Smith, who is of mixed-race descent, wrote that Kureishi’s semi-autobiographical debut novel, “Buddha of Suburbia,” made people like herself feel seen in its description of the multicultural immigrant experience.

Describing his physical ordeal in great detail, Kureishi wrote about feeling “divorced” from himself upon realizing the lack of co-ordination between “what was left of my mind and what remained of my body.”

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The writer asked his followers for leads on voice-assisted technology as “it is unclear whether I will ever be able to walk again, or whether I’ll ever be able to hold a pen.”

He said he hoped such technology might allow him to “watch, write and begin work again” and carry out “some kind of half life.”

Shocked friends and fans reacted with dismay. Author Hari Kunzru said in a tweet he was trying to process the news. Celebrity chef and cookbook author Nigella Lawson tweeted: “All love to you.”

As Britain became a more open and tolerant society in the early 21st century, Kureishi continued to stress the importance of cosmopolitanism.

“If Britain is a cultural force in Europe — which I think it is — then that’s because of multiculturalism and diversity,” Kureishi told the Guardian in 2014.

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