cover image The Black Album

The Black Album

Hanif Kureishi / Author Scribner Book Company $21.5 (287p) ISB

Again cleverly mining the chaos and contradictions of multicultural, postmodern England, Kureishi (The Buddha of Suburbia) follows the turbulent social and spiritual education of an impressionable young Pakistani at an inferior London college, where he struggles with conflicting personal, familial and cultural allegiances. The year is 1989, and the publication of Salman Rushdie's The Satanic Verses has caused an international controversy. Shahid Hasan has left his bourgeois family in Kent to study in the city. As he falls in with a group of crusading young Muslims whose charismatic leader lives next door, Shahid also becomes deeply involved--both intellectually and sexually--with his liberal, humanistic professor Deedee Osgood, who has assigned him a term paper on the rock icon then known as Prince. Irresolute to the point of spinelessness, Shahid allows his beliefs to vacillate until a violent confrontation erupts. Kureishi insightfully probes issues of faith and individualism against a memorable landscape of urban and academic upheaval. While Shahid's lack of conviction and personal loyalty make him a less than likable protagonist, there is ample fervor in the colorful supporting cast, and the author's wit and considerable narrative talents easily embroil the reader in the novel's unfolding drama. (Sept.)