Hanif Kureishi: Badass at the Lit Fest Advertisement

Hanif Kureishi: Badass at the Lit Fest

Quotable quotes from the most entertaining speaker at JLF 2015

By Deepa Menon  January 28th, 2015

Sometimes at the Jaipur Literature Festival, a speaker acquires a reputation for being funny, sharp and generally paisa-vasool, and then with each session, draws larger crowds because word has gotten around. This year that star was author Hanif Kureishi. He featured in four sessions and with each one his deadpan one-liners, cheeky interjections and sharp insights got bigger and bigger reactions. Towards the end, Kureishi was quite conscious of the effect he was having and hammed it up like a pro when he theatrically took off his jacket at the start of a panel discussion on sex to reveal that psychedelic T-shirt. Here’s the best of Kureishi in Jaipur last week.

On sex before the days of Internet porn:

“In my day, if you wanted to come in contact with pornographic material, you had to read it. I would raid my parents’ room for books like Lady Chatterley’s Lover. Imagine — we were so desperate for sexual content we were forced to come in contact with literature.”

On writing about sex:

“We live in a time of such generalised perversion that makes it harder to write about sex freshly. It’s more radical these days to write about a happy marriage.”

Kureishi makes the point that sex has the power to be revolutionary and that’s the reason major religions want to regulate it:

“Think of it this way: Every time you’re fucking, you’re defeating political Islam.”

Kureishi has been accused of exploiting details of his family’s life for his work. He comments:

“Why would you not want to be in one of my books? You get to have a lot of fun, a lot of sex. You should be so lucky.”

On writing about painful experiences:

“You detach yourself from an experience when you write about it.”

On revealing too much:

“Showing ourselves is what unites us. If you can’t bear to be exposed, don’t be an artist.” 

Photograph: Miss Nochintz