The recent publication of Hanif Kureishi's new novel, Something to Tell You, by Faber and Faber has garnered the usual praise from critics in the U.K., but it's also attracted the ire of his sister, Yasmin, who says she wishes the author would stop using their family as inspiration for his fiction. The novel, which will be published in the United States by Scribner in August, focuses on Jamal, a successful, middle-aged psychoanalyst who looks back on his life.
In an article published in the Independent in London last week, Yasmin Kureishi ran down a list of the family members who have provided the basis for the Booker Prize-winning author's characters: their mother and father in The Buddha of Suburbia (Viking, 1990), their uncle in My Beautiful Laundrette (Faber and Faber, 1986), and herself in the author's screenplay for The Mother (2003), which she referred to as "a particularly spiteful portrayal, via an amazingly insipid, two-dimensional character." Yasmin writes that the central character's sister in Something to Tell You is not based on her but on another family member.
Last week's article in the Independent isn't the first time the author's sister has responded to portrayals in his fiction. In 1998, she wrote a letter to the Guardian in which she stated that she would not stand by and let her family's history be "fabricated for the entertainment of the public or for Hanif's profit."
She wrote, "My father was angry when The Buddha of Suburbia came out as he felt that Hanif had robbed him of his dignity and he didn't speak to Hanif for about a year."
Yasmin wrote her recent article apparently in response to an interview in the Telegraph in which Hanif was quoted as referring to her as "an aspiring writer" who can always be relied on to write a letter to a newspaper. "That's the extent of her writing ability," he was quoted as saying.
"I do believe that writers should be able to take from their experiences," Yasmin wrote in the Independent. "But I don't think they should use their 'art' to be malicious, or to settle scores, or to rewrite history without any regard for others. That is simply an abuse of privilege."