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

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.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs People

Recruitment Genius: HR and Payroll Manager

£35000 - £38000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This dynamic outsourced contact...

Recruitment Genius: Production & Quality Control Assistant

£19000 - £21000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An excellent opportunity for a ...

Ashdown Group: Group HR Advisor - Kettering - £32,000

£28000 - £32000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Group HR Advisor with an established...

Guru Careers: HR Manager / HR Generalist

£40 - 50k (DOE) + Bonus: Guru Careers: We are seeking a HR Manager / HR Genera...

Day In a Page

No postcode? No vote

Floating voters

How living on a houseboat meant I didn't officially 'exist'
Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin

By Reason of Insanity

Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin
Power dressing is back – but no shoulderpads!

Power dressing is back

But banish all thoughts of Eighties shoulderpads
Spanish stone-age cave paintings 'under threat' after being re-opened to the public

Spanish stone-age cave paintings in Altamira 'under threat'

Caves were re-opened to the public
'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'

Vince Cable interview

'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'
Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

Promises, promises

But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

The death of a Gaza fisherman

He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat
Saudi Arabia's airstrikes in Yemen are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Saudi airstrikes are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Arab intervention in Yemen risks entrenching Sunni-Shia divide and handing a victory to Isis, says Patrick Cockburn
Zayn Malik's departure from One Direction shows the perils of fame in the age of social media

The only direction Zayn could go

We wince at the anguish of One Direction's fans, but Malik's departure shows the perils of fame in the age of social media
Young Magician of the Year 2015: Meet the schoolgirl from Newcastle who has her heart set on being the competition's first female winner

Spells like teen spirit

A 16-year-old from Newcastle has set her heart on being the first female to win Young Magician of the Year. Jonathan Owen meets her
Jonathan Anderson: If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

British designer Jonathan Anderson is putting his stamp on venerable house Loewe
Number plates scheme could provide a licence to offend in the land of the free

Licence to offend in the land of the free

Cash-strapped states have hit on a way of making money out of drivers that may be in collision with the First Amendment, says Rupert Cornwell
From farm to fork: Meet the Cornish fishermen, vegetable-growers and butchers causing a stir in London's top restaurants

From farm to fork in Cornwall

One man is bringing together Cornwall's most accomplished growers, fishermen and butchers with London's best chefs to put the finest, freshest produce on the plates of some of the country’s best restaurants
Robert Parker interview: The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes

Robert Parker interview

The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes
Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

We exaggerate regional traits and turn them into jokes - and those on the receiving end are in on it too, says DJ Taylor