Hanif Kureishi Collapsed. His Dispatches on Recovery Are Captivating Readers


The tweets are brave, profound, playful, lyrical, despairing and occasionally very funny. Mentioning an impending rectal exam, Kureishi recalled the last one he had, courtesy of the public National Health Service back in England. The nurse mistook him for Salman Rushdie.

“As the nurse flipped me over she asked me, “How long did it take you to write ‘Midnight’s Children?’” Kureishi wrote. “I replied, ‘If I had indeed written ‘Midnight’s Children,’ don’t you think I would have gone private?”

As it happens, the two writers are old friends. “My friend Salman Rushdie, one of the bravest men I know, a man who has stood up to the most evil form of Islamofascism, writes to me every single day, encouraging patience,” Kureishi wrote in one Twitter post. “He should know,” he added, a reference to the vicious stabbing attack on Rushdie last summer. “He gives me courage.”

Kureishi is about to move to a specialty rehabilitation hospital, and his recovery is likely to be arduous and uncertain. After an operation on his neck to reduce some of the swelling around his spinal cord, he has regained glimmers of movement in his legs and the tips of his fingers, Carlo said. No one has made a definitive prognosis, though a physical therapist recently “promised that I would raise a pen again with my right hand,” Kureishi wrote on Thursday.

The author has been grappling daily with the recalibration of his closest relationships — with his three sons, his wife and his ex-wife, the producer Tracey Scoffield, to whom he remains close. “This bomb has also shattered the lives of those around me,” he wrote.

“People love to be kind and help one another,” he added. “They also resent their dependence on each other and the fact they can’t do everything for themselves. My accident was a physical tragedy, but the emotional outcomes for all of us are going to be significant, but also very interesting.”

In 1997, readers marveled at the courage and humanity of Jean-Dominique Bauby, a French magazine editor who wrote the memoir “The Diving-Bell and the Butterfly” after a stroke left him profoundly paralyzed, suffering from locked-in syndrome and able to communicate only by blinking one eyelid. Kureishi’s situation is different, of course: He is not as physically incapacitated as Bauby, for one thing. But what is perhaps most striking about what he is doing is that it is unfolding in real time, as if he is writing from inside a storm, rather than waiting for it to abate.



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