The Buddha of Suburbia | Study Guide

Hanif Kureishi

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The Buddha of Suburbia | Part 1, Chapter 8 : In the Suburbs | Summary



This chapter closes Part 1. Karim Amir has returned to live at Haroon Amir and Eva Kay's since, after his betrayal of Changez, he cannot stay with Jamila and Changez. Haroon regularly berates Karim for his pretending to be serious about school and failing his exams. Karim blames his inability to concentrate at school on his anguish over the family situation. Ted has agreed to help Eva renovate her house in preparation for selling it, and Karim is happy to have the relief of Ted's company. Eva's plan is to move from the dilapidated suburban house she had purchased to London and the sophisticated good life among peers. Karim develops some new skills in helping with the renovation. The renovators explore South London in their spare time. Eva and Haroon enjoy the amenities London has to offer, going to "controversial plays, to German films or to lectures by Marxists, and to high-class parties." Haroon concludes that they need to earn money. With Eva's connections he expands his guru appearances, and Eva prepares herself to become a decorator for the wealthy. Karim, observing the erotic couple and their cultivated tastes, concludes that "love seemed a narrow-eyed, exclusive, selfish bastard" who enjoyed "itself at the expense of a woman." He thinks of course of his grieving mother, who is spending her days in bed at Auntie Jean's house.

Charlie Kay, in the meantime, drifts in and out of the house, his mother intrigued by his physical beauty and certain of his eventual success. Karim envies Charlie and is certain he will not be a success. Still, he admires Charlie's unrelenting ambition and self-confidence and proposes working with him. Karim, working as Charlie's roadie, finally tells Charlie the truth. "You're not going anywhere—not as a band and not as a person." Shortly thereafter Charlie breaks up the band and disappears.

Karim fantasizes about his own liberation in London, a place of pleasure, excitement, and stimulation—and best of all, "thousands of black people everywhere, so I wouldn't feel exposed." Karim is 20 and "ready for anything."


Haroon's regular harangues about Karim's failures have helped Karim to separate while Haroon, who sees his son as an extension of himself, takes Karim's failures personally. Karim, on the other hand, begins to think independently. His great gift is his clarity of vision. He is no longer self-deluding. He sees his family and friends with the same clarity as he sees himself. That is, he is able to see the mix of strength and weakness in everyone. He understands the self-serving nature of survival and laments his mother's inability to find that for herself.

At the very least, Karim knows where he stands in relation to each member of his family. Best of all, he appreciates the life around him. Even as he makes fun of Ted, he takes very seriously Ted's conversion to a life he can bear. He appreciates Ted's authenticity as a bumbler as well as a talented workman. He also recognizes that it is Haroon's advice that has prevailed in Ted's changing attitudes.

Finally, Charlie, as surrogate older brother, provides a model for what's next for Karim. Charlie has a life of his own, separate from the family. Karim, able to see Charlie's strengths and his shortcomings, finds the self-confidence to leave the suburbs, to make the next part of his life journey.

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