Passed/Failed: An Education in the Life of Hanif Kureishi, whose Screenplays Include My Beautiful Laundrette and Sammy and Rosie Get Laid

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The Independent Online
Hanif Kureishi's latest novel, `Intimacy', is currently being filmed. `Midnight All Day', his collection of short stories, is out now

Primary school: I would like to write children's books, a lovely form. At Raglan Road Junior School, in Bromley, I remember learning to read seriously at around seven or eight. That guaranteed me some independence, that is, I could read a book - Billy Bunter, Jennings & Darbishire and particularly Enid Blyton, whom I loved - and enjoy it at my own speed. My dad had a big library and I remember him going into second-hand bookshops and climbing up ladders, while I waited, as my kids now wait for me.

Secondary school: I enjoyed my education until I was 11. I wanted to go to a grammar school but they wouldn't let me in. I went to Ravenswood, a pretty wretched "technical" school where I spent most of my time with a chisel in my hand. Most of the teachers weren't interested in us, nor we in them. Luckily for me, it was the Sixties and most of us were interested in pop music and the Vietnam war; and you could buy Jack Kerouac novels in Bromley. I was leading a kind of double life, hanging around in literary circles in South Kensington, then going to school in my uniform.

College: I left with three O-levels: English, history and art. They didn't let me take any more because I was too stupid. I managed to get into Ravensbourne College of Art, where they did A-levels in a kind of Portacabin round the back. It was a wonderful place, full of kids with paint all over their faces, putting on plays and performing in bands. I did English, politics and history; I got an A in English; I was surprised because I hadn't done much work. I would sit at home and write a novel rather than an essay. When I was 15, I wrote a novel that I sent to Anthony Blond, the publishers; fortunately, it didn't get published, but an editor there was very encouraging to me.

University: I went to Lancaster University, reading English for a year, and then I was expelled for not going to lectures or exams. I had taken my girlfriend up there and we were living out of town and taking drugs. Dad, who was very ill, having just had a heart attack, was furious. I wanted to work in Fleet Street but he forced me to go to university again and I was lucky to get into King's College, London.

I chose to read philosophy because I felt that English was too close to what I wanted to do: write. I found philosophy so mind-stretching and very stimulating, as were the teachers and the other students.

The virtue of being at King's was that you were in the middle of London. At that time, the Royal Shakespeare Company was over the road in the Aldwych, and I worked there, selling programmes and helping a friend who made costumes. I also worked in the Royal Court theatre; I read scripts, did the ironing - and had a play on there. I used to sit and listen to conversations with Samuel Beckett and Lindsay Anderson.

I got a 2:1. My father was pleased, and yet also a bit disappointed I didn't get a first. I was lucky I hadn't been chucked out of education before this. They say you can get a good education anywhere, except at school.