The Buddha of Suburbia | Study Guide

Hanif Kureishi

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Course Hero, "The Buddha of Suburbia Study Guide," April 12, 2019, accessed August 15, 2020, https://www.coursehero.com/lit/The-Buddha-of-Suburbia/.

The Buddha of Suburbia | Quotes

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1.

Mum ... considered her body to be an inconvenient object surrounding her ... an unexplored desert island.


Narrator, Part 1, Chapter 1

This quotation showcases both a highly sexualized adolescent's need to see his mother as the only nonsexual object in his universe and also a contrast between her very British and colorless self and the colorful Indian characters. Seeing the world in polar extremes reflects Karim's adolescent version of life. He is a transparently unreliable narrator, his playful descriptions demonstrating that no one appreciates more than he his confusion and ambivalence. His pleasure in his sense of humor is both a survival strategy and an emblem of the instability of his point of view.

2.

You're only interested in toilet rolls, sardine tins, sanitary pads, and turnips.


Haroon Amir, Part 1, Chapter 2

Karim quotes his father's derogatory response to Anwar's hard-won material success. The list of Anwar's interests—the range of items in Paradise stores, Anwar's shop—according to Haroon is itself transgressive because it mingles food staples with personal hygiene products.

3.

It was Dad's presence that extracted the noise from people's heads.


Narrator, Part 1, Chapter 3

Karim recognizes that Haroon's "guru exploits" are legitimate, that his father has an enabling gift. Haroon's "appearances," part pep talk and part meditation, provide his disciples a needed respite from the commotions of everyday life.

4.

I found a book in his briefcase with illustrations of Chinese sexual positions, which included Mandarin Ducks Entwined.


Narrator, Part 1, Chapter 4

Karim is titillated by the illustrations of "Chinese sexual positions" and pleased to imagine his commonality with his father in his sexual appetites. He seems less distressed by his father's adultery than he is fascinated by the mechanics of the sexual relationship.

5.

Should people pursue their own happiness at [others'] expense? Or should they be unhappy so others can be happy?


Haroon Amir, Part 1, Chapter 5

Helen, Karim, and Jamila consult with Haroon to help Jamila decide about an arranged marriage that will save her father's life but will destroy her own wishes and dreams. Haroon answers enigmatically.

6.

How could he stand there so innocently when he'd abused me? I suddenly felt nauseous with anger and humiliation.


Narrator, Part 1, Chapter 7

Karim sees "Hairy Back," Helen's father, and recalls the racist insults the man had hurled before loosing his dog on Karim. Although Karim had been the object of racism at school, he found it ordinary, just part of the deal. In this return to Chislehurst, he recognizes how deeply hurt he is by Hairy Back's attention.

7.

I'd often wondered what I'd do in such a position ... I scuttled out of the flat ... feeling I'd betrayed everyone.


Narrator, Part 1, Chapter 7

Karim has a moment of recognition: he has made love to Jamila and realizes that Changez had been watching from the next room. He had been in Changez's position when he'd come upon Haroon and Eva Kay in the garden. With the shift in position comes a shift in point of view. Karim feels guilt and understands his responsibility—different from the diffidence that is his usual response.

8.

Mum's wretchedness was the price Dad had chosen to pay for his happiness. How could he have done it?


Narrator, Part 1, Chapter 8

As Part 1 comes to a close, Karim begins to examine the selfishness of childhood manifest in his father's adult behavior. This is a turning point for the self-indulgent narrator.

9.

The sixties have been given notice tonight. Those kids we saw have assassinated all hope.


Charlie Kay, Part 2, Chapter 9

Charlie Kay sees his new opportunity. He and Karim have been introduced to punk rock—and the performance of rage. This passage is a reminder of the shift from the flower children of the 1960s with their message of love and peace to the outrage of punk rock and right-wing politics in England in the 1970s.

10.

I burned with less envy of Charlie than I [thought]. This was because one strong feeling dominated me: ambition.


Narrator, Part 2, Chapter 10

Eva Kay and Karim Amir have just witnessed Charlie Kay's success as a punk rocker. Karim's naive self-confidence, spoken significantly before it was a reality, marks his potential and his inheritance from a father who blindly believes in him.

11.

It was as if Jamila had educated her in possibility, the child being an example to the parent.


Narrator, Part 2, Chapter 11

Karim is a great observer of human nature. He knows how much he has learned, especially from his father, and knows equally how his own development has enabled him to distinguish himself from his father. With Jeeta and Jamila, he sees the inspiration flowing in the opposite direction. Jamila's feminism, her potential that he so admires, is at work at this point in the narrative.

12.

I did feel, looking at these strange creatures now—the Indians—that ... these were my people.


Narrator, Part 2, Chapter 14

Karim watches the Indian gravediggers at Anwar's funeral and begins to come to terms with his identity. His work in theater has exposed him to a white fetish version of his father's race. At Anwar's grave he faces the potential for an individually authentic version—his own hybrid version.

13.

[Everything about her] seemed to illuminate her tonight ... an Indian woman [setting off] to live a useful life in white England.


Narrator, Part 2, Chapter 14

Karim observes Jamila after her father's funeral. Jamila alters her plans to move alone to Peckham. She invites Changez to come so long as he understands her need to be an independent member of a new community. Karim is inspired by Jamila's strength and compassion as she makes a space for Changez in a life that wouldn't necessarily include him. In her ability to change she can imagine that for Changez as well.

14.

By possessing these prizes ... we stared defiantly into the eye of Empire and all its self-regard.


Narrator, Part 2, Chapter 15

Karim, in thinking about Eleanor's betrayal in sleeping with Matthew Pyke and her earlier choices of black lovers, has an epiphany. He believes he understands the role of black immigrant men as they pursue English women. They are worthy of and entitled to "kindness and beauty"—to more that the Empire has to offer than racial prejudice and hatred.

15.

I want to save other people from leading untrue lives. D'you live an untrue life, Creamy?


Uncle Ted, Part 2, Chapter 18

Karim is coming to recognize how much he has to learn about life. Karim reminds Ted that it is Haroon who saved him (Ted) from an "untrue life." Ted responds by asking Karim the crucial question. Karim, who ordinarily uses many words to rationalize his behavior, answers simply and truthfully.

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