We Recommend – Collected Stories by Hanif Kureishi

Containing eight new stories, this collected edition of Kureishi’s short stories is essential reading for any serious fans of modern British fiction.  Over the course of the last decade, Hanif Kureishi has written a wealth of short fiction, and his stories, old and new, are collected in this volume. The stories are, by turns, daring, erotic, funny and charming, as they explore the complexities of relationships and the joys of children.  The collection also contains Kureishi’s thought-provoking stories ‘Weddings and Beheadings’ and ‘My Son the Fanatic’.  As with his novels and screenplays, he has his finger on the pulse of political tensions in society and the effects of those tensions on people’s everyday lives. 



I have to confess that, as a writer, I desecrate books I like all the time.  I underline good sentences, too covetous, I suppose, to simply let them go.   I punctuate great moments of comedy, absurdity and daring with childish sprees of exclamation marks.  (Among my books, Chekhov and Kureishi have the misfortune of having their pages ‘most littered’.)  There’s no real purpose for these crude, inked-splodged marks and underlinings.  It’s not as if I return to them, dutifully, though perhaps I always think I might one day.  Really, they’re nothing more than a token of appreciation I can’t resist giving in the live moment of reading; a quick burst of applause the writer will never hear.   

My Collected Stories is already so battered, marked-up, creased and dog-eared that any second-hand book dealer’s lip would curl at the sight.  And that is, I suppose, my tribute to it.  It has travelled far with me.  It is heavy, bigger even than my paperback copy of War and Peace.  It doesn’t slide conveniently into any bag.  Lugging it, I wonder if I have pulled tendons.   In years to come, the pages will come unglued as a result of my determined flattening of it with my forearm as I read it in bed. 

But, in spite of its heft, I was never tempted to break faith with it and go, promiscuously, to another book or writer.  Story by story, I stayed fascinated, which, as every real reader knows, is like love.  Only at one point, did the book and I need a break from one another.  As Kureishi and I walked through London, after my interview with him, I asked – rather pointedly, I suppose – if he would be so good as to relieve me of the weight of his oeuvre for a bit, a request he courteously accepted, even though he felt foolish walking through the streets of his city with his own book displayed under his arm.

I have huge admiration for Kureishi as a writer; his work is entirely human, unflinchingly honest and humane.  Several stories in this volume are deeply, quietly touching (‘Long Ago Yesterday’, ‘Remember this Moment, Remember Us’, ‘Morning in the Bowl of the Night’, ‘Nightlight’).  Like all great story writers, Kureishi understands the power of understatement, and that quality often imbues his work with a sharp and delicate poignancy.  I’d forgotten how tender so much of his writing is.  On the other hand, there are wild stories here, rogue stories that delight for delight’s sake in the comedy of the human condition (‘The Penis’, ‘The Tale of the Turd’), while others provoke, refusing polite conversation and comfortable storytelling (‘Weddings and Beheadings’, ‘My Son the Fanatic’, ‘We’re not Jews’). 

Besides, as I said to Kureishi in a break during the interview, what other modern writer can smuggle a word like  ‘impulchritudinous’ into an otherwise straightforward moment of storytelling and get away with it?  That act of daring alone I admire.

Below, you’ll find some of my favourite lines and moments from Collected Stories.  As for the collection itself, it’s one to covet, to lovingly vandalise, and it’s a chance to have all of Kureishi’s stories (to date) under one cover.

Alison MacLeod


Hanif Kureishi on…



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