Sunday, April 6, 2008

Infidelity in My Beautiful Laundrette, The Buddha of Suburbia

What I found most interesting about My Beautiful Laundrette was its moral imagination, that which decided the consequences of choosing pleasure over duty. Similar to the conflict of Haroon in The Buddha of Suburbia, though perhaps without as much guilt, Nasser chose pleasure over duty by his adulterous affair and so effected Tania's running away and Rachel's skin rash. Kureishi comments, then, on infidelity: as Haroon becomes conflicted in his guilt, so Nasser loses the respect of his daughter and his mistress acquires a skin affliction. Infidelity has a ripple-like effect for Kureishi - it first afflicts the doers, then their most immediate relations, and outward until it reaches the edge of the pond. Yet what moral code does infidelity breach? Kureishi slashes traditional moral codes, portraying his characters as enlivened by drugs and sex and general rebelliousness. Thus his attitude towards infidelity cannot come from these.
It seems there's some connection to cheating on your spouse and cheating on your racial heritage in Kureishi's works. His protagonists, Karim and Omar, must cope with their dual-ancestry like his adulterers, Nasser and Haroon, must cope with their dual-wants, that of fidelity and that of pleasure. As Omar is thrown into a world that does not match his skin color, so Nasser and Haroon are caught in a marriage that does not match their lustful wants - yet each, extending Kureishi's consequences for infidelity, must live not by their desires but by an enduring acquiescence.

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