Dear beloved Hanif,

Thank you for today’s dispatch! I grew up under the shadow of the same pernicious belief: that praise or affirmation of any kind would lead to the unforgivable sin of self-regard…leading inevitably to moral sloth and the complete breakdown of the social order. What a pile of crap. Now, like you, when my students surprise or move me or make me smile with their writing, I’m happy to let them know and always do.

And I’m even happier to tell you how much your dispatches mean to me. Your writing, reaching me in my surgery recovery bed, is something I look forward to every day. I love your radical honesty. I love the way you look deeply at all of life - the enemas and toilet accidents right along with the poetry of a face or the kindness of nurse’s touch. I love your humor and wit, astoundingly present in that hospital, and I also love when you just can’t summon it that day. Your writing shows me what it means to be a human being, a soul, a mind, a personality within the confines of a physical body, with all its delights and miseries. You invite us right into your room and I feel honored to be there.

Thank you for your generous heart, your wildly expansive spirit. I think of you and send thoughts of healing to you each morning. Praise for this day with you in it, Hanif Kureishi, praise to you for all you are.

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All praise to you, Hanif, for talking about shit and shitting. Of course kids talk about it, but entry into adulthood seems to come with the bargain that defecation will never be broached, at least until we become infirm enough to let it all hang out, so to speak.

I too shit my pants (haven’t we all) in elementary school; well, on the way actually. I still quite fondly remembering duck-walking the rest of the way to school with a definite load on. That was the occasion I also fell in love with my kindergarten teacher.

As I was sitting at my desk, praying that no one would notice me or my olfactory emanations, the teacher suddenly said: “Children, what is that smell? Oh look, they are tarring the street. Let’s go look.”

And as the class gathered at the windows, she took my by the hand and led me to the toilet where I was made presentable.

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I am a retired nurse living in Minnesota, USA. I had not heard of you before coming across these writings. I wake up every morning hoping there will be a post from you. I’m not a writer and have never followed a writer. I have been submerged in the medical world for 40 years, with a whole different vocabulary. I am deeply moved and somehow changed by what and how you write. Thank you !

I’m praying for you.


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I just wanted to say how much reading the account of your current trials has affected me.

I went through a similar trauma forty years ago, and your feelings and frustrations, along with your remarkable ability to articulate your experiences almost in real time is such valuable and important work.

I remember the shock, and reluctance to accept what had happened. Staring at the ceiling for days/weeks (at that time complete immobilization for three months was normal practice), listening to weird squeaking noises (which I later understood was the sound of wheelchair tyres turning on linoleum), the sudden transition into an alternate universe, where everything looked the same, but which had irrevocably changed (irrespective of recovery, the foundations of your existence have been altered). Your world stops, while everyone else's carries on turning. Of course, those close to you are suffering their own, individual trauma, but they have a choice. You have no choice and that, itself, generates feelings of guilt on both sides of the divide.

Robert Murphy, in 'The Body Silent' details how disability can invert the train of cause and effect: from the crime, leading to a sense of guilt and some sort of punishment; to the punishment of illness or injury engendering feelings of guilt and the sense that some sort of crime must have been committed. It's an insidious inversion, with disability an indicator of some kind of moral transgression, that infects society (and fiction).

The most difficult time comes with that transition back into the 'real' world. Many will find it hard to reforge a relationship in these new circumstances, where the trade-offs of friendship can suddenly seem so much more asymmetrical; you will find it difficult yourself, and many won't be able to cope with the adjustment. Those that do often aren't the ones you'd expect. But after some months, you will 'find your feet' again, and re-emerge irrevocably changed, but more resilient.

On the plus side, following my injury I met some of the most amazing, selfless, inspiring human beings I've known. So there's that.

Anyway ... what I meant to say before getting sidetracked, was that your brilliant ability to translate your experiences into a universally compelling narrative has brought a lot of those feelings back to the surface for me and, I think, could be as important as anything you've written.

Things will get better.

Very best wishes to you and your family.


P.S. I also highly recommend 'The Diving Bell and the Butterfly' - an amazing treatise on the indomitability of the human spirit in the face of catastrophic injury. As Robert Murphy identifies, 'Metamorphosis' also captures the stages of transition in that Kafkaesque world you've fallen into.

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When my sister, Peggy, was in her Pittsburgh nursing home, dying of pancreatic cancer, and in a coma (9 days), I stayed with her. They gave me a bed. I ate their awful food and drank ginger ales from the vending machine and sat by her side, and lay back in my cot next to her hospital bed, my Buddhist prayers going round my head. Time in those days had no meaning, no sense -- it was just her and me, on and on. In the dead of the night, a young Black man, good-looking, kind-faced, changed her diaper with great efficiency. Peggy was completely out. She had no ordinary awareness, she must have weighed 70 pounds at the most by then. He lifted her butt, sponged her, slipped a clean diaper on, in seconds. But he did it gently. Lovely man. I honour the people who deal kindly with the earthy functions of people in great need, like my well-loved, schizophrenic, skeletal sister, who died with me by her side.

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Feb 14Liked by Hanif Kureishi

My heart filled with joy and tears of happiness filled my eyes when I read you stood today. My partner had to learn to walk again after a long stay in hospital back in 2020. Keep shining!

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All praise for standing up today and for giving us a sense of your journey through these posts.

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Thank you, Hanif, for inviting us into your life. So much about these times seems to be pushing us all apart, but you do the opposite. 🌞

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Congratulations Hanif. I really look forward to your writing and what an online community you have created, it's brilliant and a massive support. I love the bit where you write "My work as a teacher is neither to uplift nor discourage them, but to say something that will help them move on as writers. I want to help them say something tomorrow that they couldn’t say yesterday." That's exactly it. And, apart from your writing, it is exactly this that I find so brilliant about you and the way you teach and mentor

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Dear Hanif, I hope you realise how much you inspire others and how much you are admired, even loved. “My work as a teacher is neither to uplift nor discourage them, but to say something that will help them move on as writers. I want to help them say something tomorrow that they couldn’t say yesterday." I’m a budding writer, and I’d love to have a teacher like you! Wishing you further recovery of your body and the continued buoyancy of your spirit. Onward and, yes, upwards - and, I hope, forwards.

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Dear Hanif—may I call you Hanif? I subscribed about a month ago, probably the day the piece appeared in the NYT, and have been reading it faithfully since then, with about equal amounts of pleasure and sadness.

I especially liked today's post, when you talk about the universality of art: "There is a sense in which work does liberate us. We are making a contribution to the world; our art is for others and not for ourselves alone; a connection is being made. This is the spark of life, a kind of love."

Right there, you're making that connection with me, in the moment. And—right there—you pivot to your singular experience of standing in the contraption and the elation you felt, and I wanted to cheer.

Also about critics: you probably heard about the German ballet critic who got her face smeared with a choreographer's dog's poop this week. Occupational hazard?

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I really felt that last part of the post, having been raised by a father who certainly did not think children should be remotely praised; only critic was offered (for my benefit - this was all done as a token of love). The result being that, even today, I find problems taking praise at face value - surely they must be part of an elaborate jest?

Don't you think that maybe writers are more likely to believe critics, rather than praise because they have been thus raised? In editing, critique must per force be a useful- if painful - tool.

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Your writing is wonderful and comic and touching. I am glad of your talent and commitment to it x

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Cheering you on from the depths of the German forest, the Odenwald, which some with a sense of humour think sounds like „forest of the testicles“ in German.

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Maybe I will be first to tell you how much you are praised by me. This day ahead of me is hard. Kafka etc. But reading your effort inspires me. Your work stands alone as innovative in my opinion. One could say I was worthy of giving this praise out as I am close to your age.

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Dear Hanif,

There is so much to unpack here. I've always mistrusted praise and encouragement, but without therapy never paid a ton of attention to why. Reading this piece, I realize that my parents always had a "but" or some other negative hook associated with any encouragement or praise they meted out. "Spare the rod and spoil the child" (which I think harks to the Victorian era?) was a favored line, despite the decade of the '60s into which I was born.

They're long-since gone, and its all bygones at this point. What did they know other than the emotionless families they were raised by? Who were their role models? One can only hope to have more self-awareness than that from where we started.

Your missives are enjoyed each time they arrive.

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