Saturday, May 24, 2008

Now that the Vilnius music season is over....

time for a book review. Thanks to a dodgy Indian meal (no need to mention names in Vilnius) I had the opportunity to spend two days in bed, reading Hanif Kureishi's 'Something to tell me'. I love Kureishi's books, all of which have some autobiographical character (like David Lodge's books), and they are always so funny, quirky and unexpected. Given the autobiographicalness of the books of a writer who was born a year before me, they contain many events and situations I can relate, to - though his London Pakistani(Indian Muslim)/English bohemian lifestyle and background is one that has eluded me, so far.

This one is about an Indian Muslim (Pakistani)/English (surprise!) psychoanalyst who has at least one guilty secret in the past. He also has a history of activities which might surprise some of his patients. Like Kureishi, he is well-connected in the London chattering classes, with various friends in the entertainment business and in politics. (Everyone who is anyone in London these days has such friends). Naturally he is Old Labour and Mr Blair and his ilk come in for some interesting comments not only from him, but also all his friends. Add to this his rather manic sister, his mother who has found love late in life, his own separation and rather interesting son (similar in age to Kureishi's sons), a ghost appearing from the past, everyone telling the analyst all their problems, whether he gets paid for it or not, the fact that in the end the secret will out, and it makes it an extremely colourful and unputdownable book. Like all Kureishi's books it's quite bizarre, which probably makes it all the more real in London.

Kureishi himself has apparently been in therapy for decades, and it shows a little. The book is thinly sprinkled with references to Freud (inevitably), Winnicott and others, one of the afflicted patients shares their problem with an Irving Yalom patient (but one sentence probably does not plagiarism make) - though actually the main protagonist could have been anyone in any profession trading on his reputation. It's a bit unfortunate that he shares his name, Mr Khan, with an American psychoanalyst, whose originally stunning reputation has tarnished a little.