The Buddha of Suburbia | Study Guide

Hanif Kureishi

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The Buddha of Suburbia | Part 2, Chapter 13 : In the City | Summary



Eleanor and Karim Amir head to the Pykes' for supper. Karim thinks about his friend Terry and his advice about the liberal notions of the Pykes. Terry also suggests that Karim try to raise some money for the true political radicals who support the cause of the people. At the Pykes', Karim is impressed by the lavish house and its decor. Dinner is strained despite copious amounts of champagne and marijuana. Afterwards, Matthew takes Eleanor out to the garden, leaving Marlene and Karim alone. Karim learns from Marlene about Gene, Eleanor's past lover, a brilliant West Indian actor who endured the racism of London for as long as he could and eventually committed suicide. Eleanor, who was very young at the time, found his body.

Marlene and Karim make love, and at some point he realizes that Pyke and Eleanor are across the room also having intercourse. The Irish maid watches appreciatively. The foursome become sexually entangled, and Marlene in her drunken pleasure announces that the liaisons can go on freely all night.


The contrasts in this chapter are between the radical politics of Terry, a man of the people, and the conspicuous consumption—material and sexual—of the Pykes. Karim's assumption that the Pykes are radicals is dispelled by their free and easy self-serving lives. The presence of the Irish maid as voyeur contributes to the theme of exploitation that is the other side of the Pykes' decadent lifestyle. In his doped and drunken haze, once he and Marlene begin to fornicate, Karim reviews his life to date, transfixed by memories of his early striving, his relationship to Charlie Kay, his own projected success, and his mother's pain. Thinking of his mother leads to Karim thinking about another sad case, Eleanor's boyfriend Gene, destroyed by racism. Karim doesn't dwell on Gene's tragedy, however; he turns to thoughts about himself. He wonders how he can ever replace Gene in Eleanor's eyes. Karim leaves the waking dream to return to the four-way games that include his sexual interactions with Matthew as well as with the women. Karim at 20 seems to have made his choices for alliance based on the pleasure principle.

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