Hanif Kureishi says life ‘completely changed’ after collapseon February 5, 2023 at 6:18 am

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The My Beautiful Launderette author said losing the use of his limbs had been “illuminating as well as terrible”.

Hanif KureishiImage source, Getty Images

Novelist Hanif Kureishi has spoken of coming “face to face with death” after a fall left him paralysed last year.

The My Beautiful Launderette author fainted and fell on his head while on holiday in Rome on Boxing Day.

Speaking from a clinic outside the Italian capital, he said losing the use of his arms, hands and legs has been “illuminating as well as terrible”.

Mr Kureishi said the incident has left him feeling “like a piece of meat”.

“I was quite healthy for most of my life before this,” he told BBC Radio 4’s Broadcasting House.

“I had one or two illnesses here and there and I considered myself healthy. Now, when I sit outside in the garden here I see people walking around, I can’t believe they’re walking around. I want to say to them ‘don’t you know it’s amazing you can walk around, you can use your arms and legs’.”

Writing shortly after the incident, the 68-year-old said he collapsed after feeling dizzy following a walk.

When he came to, he said he thought he was dying but his partner, Isabella d’Amico, “saved my life and kept me calm”.

He described waking up in “a pool of blood” with his neck in a “grotesquely twisted position”. He felt “profoundly traumatised” after the incident and could not move his arms and legs.

Mr Kureishi has been sharing updates of his experience on Twitter, which he dictates to his son, Carlo.

He said this new way of writing has been “pretty difficult and awkward”.

“This is a completely new experience for me, but I wanted to continue to be a writer, which is my identity which is the last thing I have left to me,” Mr Kureishi said.

Mr Kureishi was treated at the Gemelli hospital, which he said was “suddenly like being back at school, where you have to make friends with people, you have to negotiate the institution”.

He would wake up each morning wishing he could go back to life before the incident, as though it was a “bad dream”.

The writer said his physiotherapist plans to give him a fork to use soon so he can learn to feed himself again.

“This position of extreme helplessness, it makes you feel like a big baby,” he said.

“But on the other hand, one of the things it does show you is the extreme kindness of other people. It’s been an education, I guess, on kindness for me.”

Mr Kureishi first shot to fame in 1985 when his screenplay My Beautiful Laundrette – about the relationship between a British Pakistani boy and his white boyfriend – was nominated for both a Bafta and an Oscar.

The film, which was directed by Stephen Frears, launched Sir Daniel Day-Lewis’s acting career.

His first book The Buddha of Suburbia won the Whitbread book of the year award for a first novel in 1990. It was turned into a four-part television series by the BBC three years later.

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