‘I’ve Become a Reluctant Dictator’

Sarah Bell on BBC: Novelist Hanif Kureishi sustained life-changing injuries when he collapsed and landed on his head on Boxing Day last year. Left without the use of his arms and legs, the award-winning writer of The Buddha of Suburbia and My Beautiful Laundrette has charted his experience in brutally-honest blog posts. He credits his sense of purpose to his relationship with his responsive readers. A year on, he joined BBC Radio 4’s Today program as a guest editor and described the accident’s profound impact on his life.

Kureishi was on the jury of the Cannes Film Festival in 2009. The 69-year-old was staying with his partner Isabella in Rome when he fainted after a walk. He woke up lying in a pool of blood.

…Kureishi says he is still the same person he was a year ago, but has lost his sense of humor – and innocence. “I was quite a jaunty fellow, I went around the world quite cheerfully, I enjoyed walking about and seeing things and talking. “The world seems much darker. And you look at all those innocent people strolling around the world looking so healthy and fit and happy and you think: ‘You don’t know guv, what’s coming down the road.’ “And that’s a very cruel and cynical way of seeing things, but you’ve gone through a door when you have an accident in the way that I had an accident. “But in a sense I feel that I’m much closer to reality – that, in a way, we’re living in some kind of nirvanic miasma until something like this happens.” Over the past year, Kureishi has been treated in five different hospitals in Italy and then the UK. His paralysis has transformed his relationships. “I can’t even make a cup of tea. I can’t scratch my nose. So I’ve had to learn to make demands. I’m a reluctant dictator.”

“There are friends and acquaintances who have been absolutely devoted – people you wouldn’t necessarily have thought of as being particularly like that. “You’ll find that one particular person might volunteer to bring you food, to give you a head massage, to sit with you, to make phone calls for you, to do your emails for you, everything. “There are other people – more men actually, I would say, than women – who just can’t bear to be in a hospital. And you can see them looking at their watches, thinking: ‘How the hell do I get out of here and how soon can I leave?’ because it’s such an awful thing to see all these people in wheelchairs and crippled people staggering around the corridors, and they all think: ‘God, it’s gonna be me next.’ More here.

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