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The Buddha of Suburbia Paperback – Deckle Edge, May 1, 1991

48 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews Review

There's quite a bit of activity in Buddha of Suburbia. A bureaucrat becomes a suburban guru who marries a follower with a son who's a punk rocker named Charlie Hero. Consequently, the guru's son is propelled from his bland life into a series of erotic experiences in London. All the while, Hanif Kureishi keeps the tone lively with wry wit. On the description of suburban life: "We were proud of never learning anything except the names of footballers, the personnel of rock groups and the lyrics to 'I Am the Walrus.'" He also bends cultures, classes and genders while blasting the racism of British life in this 1990 Whitbread Prize winner.

From Publishers Weekly

Karim Amir, bored with his suburban lifestyle in England, is propelled into the fast lane and introduced to disparate cultures, classes and genders thanks to a disorienting chain of events sparked by his father, a self-proclaimed guru. PW called this "delectable. . . . Resembling a modern-day Tom Jones , this is an astonishing book, full of intelligence and elan."
Copyright 1991 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Books; Reprint edition (May 1, 1991)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 014013168X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0140131680
  • Product Dimensions: 5.1 x 0.6 x 7.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 11.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (48 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #42,575 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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23 of 25 people found the following review helpful By David J. Gannon on February 2, 2002
Format: Paperback
The Buddha of Suburbia is set in London in the 1970's during the peak of the Punk Revolution. It is a time where the psychological impact of the reality of the loss of Empire is at it's zenith and the explosion in the "ethnic" components of London's population is underway. Society is in a cultural and social upheaval and the world of Karim Amir as presented by Hanif Kureishi serves as an eloquent microcosm of that upheaval.
Karims rather staid middle class London suburban existence is coming apart as the novel opens. His English mother and Indian father's marriage is quickly disintegrating. His father's escape from this disaster is to become the "Buddha of Suburbia", mouthing trite Indian spiritual sayings for desperate middle aged suburban housewives and so forth. When is dad and one of his "disciples" become romantically involved, Karim is introduced into the whirlwind of London punk social life and then thoroughly swept up in the tide, ultimately achieving a measure of true personal success as all around him flounder in overindulgent self-indulgence.
Kureishi does a remarkable job of painting a detailed and well textured portrait of a society in flux during times of economic, artistic and racial turmoil through a cast of characters that adroitly symbolize the various factions of the disintegrating society while maintaining their integrity as fully formed and sympathetic (for the most part anyway) individuals.
I quite liked the book but I feel one should be forewarned that this book does have some rather unsavory, hardcore elements and situations in it that will not be everyone's cup of tea. If that sort of thing doesn't bother you, dive right in and enjoy the show.
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22 of 25 people found the following review helpful By dingleberry on April 28, 2001
Format: Paperback
The Buddha of Suburbia is a coming-of-age novel that takes place in the suburbs near London in the 70s. Although its `Indians in England' theme could easily have become an overly earnest exploration of ethnicity and gender and culture, Kureishi has the sense to spare us all that. Instead he's written a hilarious but often touching story in which the wit and energy of individuals are what's important.
Karim Amir, the narrator, is a 21-year-old Englishman of Indian descent who's at a crossroads in his life. He's waiting for something important to happen, but, uncertain as to what that thing is exactly, ends up just sort of hanging out, going from place to place. This gives the book a kind of wandering and aimless feel. You have several different plot lines: Karim's father leaving his mother for a London socialite and simultaneously becoming an Indian buddha adored by upper class white people; Amir's ultra-feminist friend Jamila having sex in bathrooms, studying martial arts in preparation for the Revolution, and being forced to marry a sheepish fat man from India because her father threatens to starve himself to death; Karim himself, joining an acting group to become famous but playing a ridiculous Mowgli in a production of the Jungle Book; Karim's ambitious and self-obsessed friend, Charlie, becoming a rock star and pressing the limits of sexuality by having hot candle wax dripped on his penis.
These events don't make for the most cohesive plot, but the characters themselves more than make up for it. You see Karim's parents and friends and associates as kind of sad and pathetic and funny and frustrated little people. Whereas others are intimidated or inspired or in awe of them, Karim is able to sit back and laugh at it all.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Aleksandra Nita-Lazar on April 20, 2006
Format: Paperback
Hanif Kureishi wrote the excellent "coming of age" novel set in London of the 1970s. The protagonist is a boy, Karim, from mixed family: his father is Indian, his mother English. He has a younger brother. They live in a London suburb of not the best reputation, the immigrant district, and feel it...

As Karim enters his teens, disturbing per se, his family collapses, his father, searching for his own path (quite good, actually, even nowadays: he becoomes a meditation guru), finds a lover, Eva, an eccentric woman with pretenses to be an artist. Meanwhile, his son falls in love with Eva's son, Charlie, and since then starts his struggle to recognize his sexuality. At the same time, he has to figure out what to do with his life... His best friend, an Indian girl with a sharp mind (a very interesting character), daughter of a shopkeeper, chooses to be a feminist, although initially she has no courage to oppose her father, traditionally bullying her into an arranged marriage,and marries an Indian from India, but quickly regains her position and goes back on the "modern" path. Karim is bright, observant, learns quickly (however he has no inclination for academic learning), ambitious (he wants to move up in society and not be regarded as an immigrant, who he, in fact, is not) finally he figures out what he wants and becomes an actor.

This is a funny account, very much in the atmosphere of the hippie times, at the same time trying to grasp the 70s, tackling the immigrant problems in England from every possible angle, and describing the rebellious years of one youth. Maybe this is too much... The story is a bit incoherent sometimes and has some boring moments, probably more interesting is the way it is written (an internal monologue), the humor and language, the sharp and witty character portraits, and the hints of autobiography (?). Although it is evidently not perfect, it only excited my curiosity as to other Kureishi's novels.
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