August 5, 2021

Hanif Kureishi: "Imagination is the most dangerous place on earth" | Babelia

Hanif Kureishi: "Imagination is the most dangerous place on earth" | Babelia

Waldo was once a reputed film director. Who knows, maybe, it was kind of Stanley Kubrick. Hanif Kureishi does not talk about his characters in those terms. He does not talk about who inspired them, he just says that they like him. Or that they have something of him. But I would not want to be like them. Pity them Sometimes he just follows them. Others, dissect them. What it does in Nothing at all (Anagrama), his latest novel is the latter: dissect them. And he does it through the watchtower provided by his protagonist, the narrator, that renowned film director who now begins to be nothing because old age is taking him somewhere else where he has lost everything. Waldo lives in his little world, an apartment he shares with his wife, Zee, still young and athletic, and a film critic, Eddie, who has become a friend of his microfamily. From his wheelchair, and from his bed, which is accommodated with an infinity of cushions, Waldo spy. Turn up the volume of your hearing aid to the maximum and spy. Suspicion, you know, that you are having an affair, sometimes you think you hear them in bed.

With a minimalism more typical of dramaturgy than of narrative, Kureishi meditates, through Waldo, on decadence, and an absolutely vital one, to which love does not give wings, but, on the contrary, hatred: a fierce desire of revenge, a sentimental jihad. Not in vain does the director himself impeded at a moment in history: "It is true that I earn my living by imagining things and imagination is the most dangerous place on earth."

"Waldo's voice appeared in my head one day. He began to tell me about his decrepitude. I was clear from the first moment that I was a creature from the 60s, a moment that today is completely exhausted, which links to the exhaustion of our time, "says Kureishi. She sprawls in the chair. Crosses arms. Give long answers He goes on recalling the struggles of the 60s – the gay movement, feminism, the fight against racism – and mentioning those of today, among which the Me Too, "a key movement in the West and in the Muslim world," and then he adds that there are things that the system promised and never fulfilled, that, in general, we are discovering that what we believed in "does not work". "I have three children," she says, "and I know that they will not have a job, that they will not be able to buy a house, that they have no future, but in spite of that they are happy, even without hope." That is what he considers comparable to the parable he establishes with his character: someone who has lost everything but nevertheless wants to live, is more alive than ever, he does not care about everything. Thus, Waldo is an old film director but at the same time he is our old society, exhausted, but still eager to live, unable to believe that everything is over.

"It would be very difficult to talk about English society today, because it is suffering an earthquake, it is pure chaos, a whirlwind that will lead to a new chaos"

Although it has been compared Nothing at all with the late prose of Philip Roth, and his portrait of the twilight male despair, the truth is that it could also be compared to the cinema of Alfred Hitchcock. "Yes, while I was writing I was watching a lot of black movies. Black cinema of the 40s and the 50s. not to go It seems to me also a good way to tell the world in which we live, so corrupt, and full of scammers. We feel constantly cheated, and not only by the promises they made in the 80s, "he says. So, somehow, although not explicitly, Nothing at all it's politics, although not as they were My beautiful laundry or The Buddha of the suburbs. "It would be very difficult to talk about English society today, because it is suffering an earthquake, it is pure chaos, a whirlwind that will give rise to a new chaos. Although it will be very interesting to see how it is written about Brexit, because it will be written. The politics in my novels now I approach it in a lateral way, not frontal, as before. I treat it from the perspective of the character, as I did in Privacy"He confesses. And is Brexit scary? "A lot. It scares me very much. I am even afraid that Theresa May will be forced to go even further to the right to scratch votes from the extreme right. It's awful. They are saying things unthinkable ten years ago, and immigrants are being treated as a kind of zombies, the world is becoming increasingly fascist and seems unstoppable, "he replies.

Two more things matter in the exercise of fencing (almost theatrical: three characters, the narrator directing the action) that constitutes Nothing at all: old age and libido. "The libido is the engine of the world," says the writer. "We are talking about a man who is almost a Beckett character, a talking head in a vase, since there is nothing he can do but rant and fantasize. His libido makes him feel all that fury and keeps him in the world. It's good that the libido exists, without it, it would be, for all of us, like living inside the body of Donald Trump, "he observes, and for the first time, he fakes a smile. It is true that Waldo's libido is transformed into fury, but by the figure of Eddie, the film critic who sleeps with his wife. "Milton speaks in The lost paradise of an infernal engine. Eddie is that engine, roaring in my living room, "says the narrator at one point in the book. About old age, he adds, he sees it approaching. "I start to have gaps, I forget names," he says. And that for him is a cluster of losses. "You lose your career, your status, your faculties. Old age is a very hard sum of losses, but you can learn to enjoy it. Until then you have not done anything else but accumulate, then empty yourself, little by little, "he adds.


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