The Buddha of Suburbia | Study Guide

Hanif Kureishi

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The Buddha of Suburbia | Part 2, Chapter 16 : In the City | Summary



The success of the show has emboldened Karim Amir. He visits the Pykes prepared to ask for a donation for Terry's cause. Marlene approaches Karim prepared for a tryst when Matthew emerges from the shower in a bad temper. Matthew writes Karim a check for 500 pounds and praises him for his political consciousness. Karim, rejecting Marlene's sexual advance, leaves quickly. Karim visits Terry to deliver the check and announces that he is going on tour to America with the show. Terry urges Karim to stay with him in Brixton, perhaps the seediest of the South London suburbs.

Although Karim understands Terry's politics, he is surprised to find his friend living in such a place. Terry's success means he can afford much better. Karim tests Terry's politics by approaching his friend sexually. When Terry acquiesces, Karim backs off, understanding that Terry is working against his own nature to demonstrate the communal nature of his vision. He is demonstrating his friendship and his adherence to his politics—that he is, in fact, living a life true to his beliefs.


In the first part of the chapter Karim rejects the sexual advances of the free-living Marlene Pyke.

Always up for taking a chance, Karim advances sexually on his friend Terry in the second part of the chapter. He is moved to find that Terry, despite his aversion to homosexuality, tries to smile and not offend Karim. Karim, seemingly without recognizing the gross inappropriateness of his boldness, is moved by his friend's "innocence in the way he wanted to understand." Terry's trust provides Karim with a lesson. Terry apologizes as Karim quickly takes his leave. Karim's aggressive test of a friendship and Terry's apology demonstrate the potential for misperception—and potential insult—even between friends with good intentions toward each other.

Karim tends to summarize what he learns after particularly affecting encounters. Here his pseudo-ethical generalization about "torture and gratuitous physical pain" evades any sense of personal responsibility and self-control. Terry, it seems, responds not out of personal injury in the moment or worry over harm to the friendship; instead, he apologizes as though the fault is with him that he cannot respond to his friend's advances. That is, Terry, like Karim, responds out of some socialized version of behavior rather than authentic feeling that the encounter has provoked. Both are trying to be good people; neither is able to act in good faith. Karim's shortcoming reflects his goodwill but lacks good faith. He is able to assert himself and reject Marlene's seduction, but turnabout is not fair play. He is not able to put the lesson from the first encounter to work in the reverse.

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