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This remarkably fine first novel from the author of the screenplays My Beautiful Launderette and Sammy and Rosie Get Laid is a freewheeling tour through the London of the 1970's--a London as vice- and class-ridden as that of a Hogarth engraving But the narrator, like that other 18th-century hero Tom Jones, relieves this bleakness with humor and sympathy. Karim is the son of an English woman and a Moslem from India, who had come to London to study the law but married instead. Karim's father, the Buddha of the title, is a handsome man of great charm who lightens the tedium of his clerk's job and suburban home-life by taking classes and reading. As the novel begins, Karim, still in high school; accompanies his father to a neighbor's house, where, to Karim's surprise, his father lectures on Buddhism and demonstrates yoga. The neighbor, Eva, artistic and ambitious, becomes his father's mistress, and his father moves in with her. Though torn by divided loyalties, Karim yearns for a wider life than that offered by suburban South London, and is willing to experiment. For a while he is infatuated with Eva's son, a beautiful and untalented musician, but with ambition enough to get him eventually to New York. Karim moves with his father to London, and through Eva's introduction becomes an actor, a reasonably successful one by the end. Along the way, Karim moves back and forth between the immigrant Indian world of small shops and arranged marriages, the drug-taking sexually experimental, and the politically posturing world of the theater. Karim samples it all as he struggles to ""locate myself and learn what the heart is."" Though graphically explicit at times, there is something satisfyingly old-fashioned about this rite-of-passage novel. Kureishi's affectionate portrayal of his very varied characters, his loving evocation of London, old and corrupt as it may be, the freedom from polemic, and the beguiling openness of Karim, make this a memorable contribution to that other English literature--that of the immigrant.

Pub Date: May 1st, 1990
ISBN: 014013168X
Publisher: Viking