The Buddha of Suburbia | Study Guide

Hanif Kureishi

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The Buddha of Suburbia | Part 2, Chapter 12 : In the City | Summary

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Summary

Karim Amir visits Changez to suggest that he might be Karim's next subject for the theater. Changez extracts a promise that Karim not do that. Changez also confesses that he would give anything to have a physical relationship with Jamila. They have never even kissed. Karim leaves Changez and rushes to Eleanor's for advice. He is torn between his promise to Changez and his pressing need to base his character piece on Changez.

He finds Eleanor in a depressed state. She takes him into her bed, and their passionate love affair begins. He is impressed by her lack of inhibitions. He believes her confidence has been bred by her privileged white background. Buoyed by his sexual success, he completes and performs his character for Matthew and the cast. The Changez character, named Tariq, is a success. Matthew will use him as the center of the next production. Immersed in his own erotic success, Karim's sensual world expands when he learns that Matthew and his wife Marlene Pyke have an open marriage and enjoy sharing details of their exploits with each other. Matthew offers Marlene as a gift to Karim, assuring him that Marlene wants him.

Not knowing how to decline the invitation, Karim agrees to come to supper at the Pyke house. He visits with his father and Eva Kay and then calls Jamila for advice. Eva approves of the supper invitation without knowing about Pyke's gift of Marlene's favors. Jamila advises Karim to stay away from the Pykes and invites him to come to her house instead. She calls him her "old lover." At the end of the week's workshop Matthew reminds Karim of their supper date that is to include Eleanor.

Analysis

This is a chapter of significant growth for Karim. A tangle of love and work creates dilemmas with which Karim struggles. Caught between his promise not to invade Changez's privacy and Karim's belief that he needs to do that to succeed, he faces his moral dilemma. He can remain a loyal friend or he can break his promise to serve his own needs. Rushing to Eleanor's to discuss his dilemma, he meets Heater leaving. Foreshadowing Karim's emerging confidence, he determinedly sidesteps his angry rival and gains entrance to Eleanor's home.

His successes multiply: he is lucky in love, and courtesy of a broken promise, he is successful at work. At the mercy of his sexuality, he has chosen himself over his loyalty to Changez. Jamila is wary of his giving himself over to the Pykes, to leaving behind the world of "ordinary people." The phases of Karim's journey are represented in the households he visits, which indicate the stopping points in his emotional development. Jamila and Changez's home in the suburbs offers more than one version of love: Jamila and Changez's accommodations to their marriage, which emerge as nonsexual love and loyalty, as well as Jamila and Karim's sexual liaison and deep friendship—recalled in this chapter when she fondly calls him "old lover." Then there is Eva and Haroon's home, a transitional space based in a mix of modern and traditional values: Haroon's willingness to leave his marriage, Eva's liberated views, Haroon's domestic helplessness, and their union based in Eva's drive for upward mobility. How liberated Karim can be is left in question at the end of the chapter. Clearly his trajectory is modern; the needle of his moral compass is wavering.

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