“Of Belonging or Not”: Counter-Canons of Britishness in the Novels of Hanif Kureishi and Andrea Levy
This article analyses two novels, Hanif Kureishi’s The Buddha of Suburbia (1990) and Andrea Levy’s Small Island (2004), to elaborate on how they form postcolonial literary visions of metropolitan Britain, in resistance to colonialist depictions of the setting which have been disseminated across the world. The two works share related themes and motifs in their representations of the experiences of first- and second-generation migrants from Britain’s (former) colonies. Kureishi’s novel, set in the 1970s, relates the teenage life of Karim, the son of an Indian migrant, Haroon, as he navigates his sense of being a “funny kind of Englishman” (3). Levy’s novel, on the other hand, relates the experiences of a Jamaican couple, Hortense and Gilbert, as they arrive in Britain in 1948 within a fictionalised representation of the Empire Windrush. Comparable images within their works, including allusions to George Lamming’s writing from the 1950s and Stuart Hall’s depiction of the West End as it has existed in colonial imaginings, demonstrate how the two novelists participate in – and, therefore, help construct – a counter-canon of writing about post-war and postcolonial Britishness.
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