Hanif Kureishi, In the Psychiatrists Chair

FullSizeRender (5)Between 1982 and 2001, Professor Anthony Clare, interviewed the great and the good for the BBC Radio Four programme, In the Psychiatrist’s Chair, gently probing and pulling away at their public selves to reveal their interior lives. They make fascinating listening and the marvellous BBC has them all available to download as podcasts here.

At Polly Samson’s Books That Built Me, we talked about the freedom Elena Ferrante ‘s anonymity gives her to write with coruscating honesty what are clearly very autobiographical novels. I was thinking about the line trodden by novelists who mine their own experience and past whilst listening to Hanif Kureishi’s In the Psychiatrists Chair, recorded in 1998.

After the publication of The Buddha of Suburbia,  his sister accused him in the Guardian of selling the family “down the line” with his portrait of their parents and grandparents. This is what Kureishi had to say:

“The past is only a playground: you can do there what you wish, you can say whatever you want, everyone has their own version. There’s no sense in which we can go back there and check. The past is something that we do things with: I make up stories about it. I mean there are a million version of my past that I could give to you – of anybody’s past – I think, what would it interest me to talk about today, what version would I prefer?…Our versions of the past are composed of wishes…”