Hanif Kureishi: Accident ‘Completely Eradicated’ Sense of Self and Privacy

Author says he had to adjust to ‘becoming another person’ after injuries in Boxing Day fall last year

Jane Clinton in The Guardian: Hanif Kureishi has spoken candidly of how his sense of self and privacy have been “completely eradicated” after a fall on Boxing Day last year left him unable to use his hands, arms or legs. As guest editor of BBC Radio 4’s Today program, the novelist and screenwriter also said he had to adjust to “becoming another person” after the accident, in which he collapsed and fell on his head after a walk in Rome.

The 69-year-old, best known for The Buddha of Suburbia, is still unable to use his limbs and has spent the last year in five different hospitals, according to the program. Much of the show was recorded at the Royal National Orthopaedic hospital in London. Kureishi said that since the accident he felt like an “exhibit” being surrounded by doctors, adding: “It is humiliating at the start and then you begin to realize that it doesn’t really matter. “You realize quite quickly that your body doesn’t belong to you any more … that you are changed, washed, poked and prodded by nurses and doctors, random people all the time. “You give up any sense of privacy: of your body, of your mind, of your soul, of anything about you … it’s completely eradicated.”

According to the prerecorded segment, Kureishi, who wrote the screenplay for the 1985 film My Beautiful Launderette, returned home before Christmas Day this year. He said he wanted to walk through the door and go about his world “as though this has been some terrible interregnum”. But he realized he was going back “as a disabled person”. “I have to adjust to becoming another person, with different relationships, with different people,” he said. “I have to find a way of living like that. It’s horrifying, I don’t want to do it, but I have to do things every day that I really don’t want to do.”

Kureishi spoke of his fall on 26 December last year in the Italian capital. At the time he thought “this is ridiculous, to die in such a stupid way”, and while waiting for an ambulance had wanted to FaceTime loved ones to say goodbye, he said. However, his partner, Isabella d’Amico, dissuaded him as people would be “quite shocked to see a dying man pop up” on their phones.

Kureishi added: “It occurred to me that everybody dies, and everybody will have that moment, and I thought: ‘Well, this is my moment and it’s rather unexpected’. “I also had a sense of thinking: ‘I’m really not done yet, there’s lots of things I really want to do. I’m not ready to die yet.’”

Since the fall, he said he had “lost his sense of humor”, with one nurse referring to him as “the man who never smiles”. He also spoke of how he now could not listen to music. “I couldn’t bear to hear it,” he said. “I think it would be too moving, I think it would be too upsetting, I would feel so awful about myself and so depressed about my situation.” He added that while the world “seems much darker than it was before”, he felt “much closer to reality” and had a greater sense of how generous people could be. More here.

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