On January 6, author and screenwriter Hanif Kureishi tweeted about suffering a dangerous fall in Rome, Italy. Afterwards, he recalled the horrific moments following the fall and being unable to move his arms and legs. Kureishi is now undergoing physiotherapy and rehabilitation at the Gemelli University Hospital in Rome.
Since the fall, Kureishi has been dictating a newsletter to his son Carlo. On January 8, he observed: “I wish what had happened to me had never happened, but there isn’t a family on the planet that will evade catastrophe or disaster. But out of these unexpected breaks, there will be new opportunities for creativity.”
While his hands were still “alien objects” to him, January 9 brought him some hope. The writer tweeted: “I sat up today. I sat up today.”
While he recovers in hospital, the 68-year-old writer has been reflecting upon life. He recalled how he had decided to become a writer at 14 or 15 years of age and wondered if choosing a career so early on in life has “excluded” him from many other things. Since his physical activities are restricted, Kureishi said he has been feeling like a “Beckettian chattering mouth.” He also commented about his conversations with his nurse and how she came into the profession.
In a later tweet from January 9, Kureishi thanked his son Carlo and wife Isabella d’Amico for helping him tweet and caring for him. He also said that he could hold up his right hand a little but they remained “stiff” and “swollen.” He admitted that even though the experience is terrible, they are not “unusual.”
Kureishi noted that having an accident is not advisable but “he [I] would say that lying completely inert and silent in a drab room, without much distraction, is certainly good for creativity.” Luckily for him the ideas have not stopped coming. “Characters, voices, situations, I’m as full of them as ever, if not more,” he tweeted.
Celebrity author and on the road to recovery himself, Salman Rushdie has been writing to Kureishi every day.
On January 10, Kureishi tweeted more about his “vegetable” state. He said that the previous night he could watch only a few minutes of mystery film Glass Onion before “everything went dark.” The next morning he was attended to by three physiotherapists who put him in a “blue plastic bathing machine.” They hoisted Kureishi in a wheelchair and he could finally look outside of his hospital room window. The trees, birds, and clouds outside gave him hope that things might begin to improve. “My heart is like a singing bird,’ Kureishi tweeted.
Kureishi shared the concerns of young queer and non-binary staff members at the hospital who are worried about the rapid rise of the far-right in Italy. This in turn has made him wonder how people of colour are treated in the country and whether Italians fear being “contaminated” by them. He remarked that his Italian wife disagrees with him. He ended the thread by signed off as “your loving cripple, Hanif.”
Kureishi’s health worsened on January 11. He recalled a sleepless, “shitty night.” He was still unable to move his arms and legs. In a series of tweets, he wrote about his forefathers and his formative years. He fondly recalled reading Proust, Balzac, and his “then-hero” James Baldwin while he was still a teenager. He also remembered at the age of 18 seeing “a tall thin man pointing vigorously at an actress” – it was Samuel Beckett who was directing Billie Whitelaw for his play Footfalls. He recalled being in awe of Beckett or “Sam” who would often sign on young writers.
Kureishi also tweeted about his encounter with literary agent Peggy Ramsay and offering her his adaptation of Fyodor Dostoevsky’s Notes From the Underground. She had handed him back his manuscript with some “contempt.” He said he was sharing his experiences as a young writer because “writers were living creatures in the world, and were paid to use their imagination.”
Kureishi reminisced about being deeply moved by Salman Rushdie’s Midnight’s Children and his “whirl of information, wit, and wide talk.” Rushdie – who was critically injured in a stabbing attack at an event in New York – had also introduced him to the iconic writer Angela Carter. He tweeted that Rushdie helped him take himself seriously: “I realised I had to start again as a person and as a writer. I had to become a comic writer, a serious writer, a writer who could integrate the maddest and the most interesting elements on the same page. I began to take myself seriously.”
The Twitter thread ended with a promise that he would soon share his “revelations” regarding drugs and sex. “I promise there will be filth in abundance to come,” he teased. The “loving cripple” of January 11 signed off as “your loving writer” on January 12.