Oh You Pret­ty Things


You see them in the ci­ties, even now, but mo­stly they are in small to­wns, or at the sea­si­de, de­fi­ni­te­ly pu­shed to the pe­ri­phe­ry of things, wi­th their rui­ned knees and ar­th­ri­tis, hum­ped bac­ked, or on sticks. They sit in­ter­mi­na­bly in ca­fes wi­th friends, doing cros­sword puzz­les, pet­ting their dogs and loo­king in­to the di­stan­ce wi­th no­thing bet­ter to do. You no­ti­ce an old wo­man in di­smal clo­thes pluc­king hairs from her chin in a mir­ror, and you turn away, cat­ching a fuz­zy glimp­se of so­meo­ne in a shop win­dow. Who is that sca­re­crow, you won­der, un­til af­ter so­me slow co­gi­ta­tion you gra­sp that you, too, ha­ve joi­ned the tri­be of the old. You meet an ac­quain­tan­ce who seems to be hea­vi­ly di­sgui­sed, even as he says, “You al­ways see­med so young, and your hair was so long...” You go in­to the tu­be, being vi­gi­lant on the stairs. Loo­king around the car­ria­ge, you un­der­stand that you might be the ol­de­st per­son mo­ving around the city to­day. Yet de­spi­te their al­lu­re and gym taut­ness, you don’t en­vy the young. They don’t even at­tract you. They seem ed­gy and afraid; they ha­ve an­xie­ty, bu­li­mia, ano­re­xia and al­co­ho­li­sm. In­fan­ti­le at thir­ty, they li­ve wi­th their mo­thers. Able to read on­ly their pho­nes, they hur­ry to their of­fi­ces sleep de­pri­ved, ever ea­ger to be the sla­ves of glo­bal ca­pi­ta­li­sm. They ha­ve dumb jobs in cof­fee shops, whe­re, lau­gha­bly, wai­ters call them­sel­ves ‘ba­ri­stas’. They’re une­du­ca­ted, they’ll be poor fo­re­ver, and will ne­ver ha­ve any­whe­re to li­ve. Their por­no­gra­phy is Sa­deian, the­se tat­tooed nar­cis­sists; and their music is de­ri­va­ti­ve. We will die soo­ner, but we ha­ve bet­ter sex, lon­ger ho­li­days and ti­me to read. We had ho­pe and ori­gi­na­li­ty and made and re-made the world, whi­le they are quie­scent and stan­dar­di­sed. The po­li­ti­cians they ad­mi­re - Ber­nie San­ders, Je­re­my Cor­bin - are even ol­der than me. Yet they are our chil­dren, the­se self-lo­vers, they are our fu­tu­re and we did them a dis­ser­vi­ce han­ding them over to mo­ney, ce­le­bri­ty and so­cial me­dia. We could ha­ve do­ne more to pro­tect them from the coar­se, wor­thless things. It is not too la­te, and the­re is still plen­ty we can say to one ano­ther. • *Bri­ti­sh au­thor, play­w­right, scree­n­w­ri­ter, and es­say­i­st, Ku­rei­shi, 62, li­ves in Lon­don. Among the works in whi­ch Ha­nif Ku­rei­shi fo­cu­ses on the pas­sing of ti­me and the re­la­tions bet­ween ge­ne­ra­tions, we wi­sh to men­tion “The Mo­ther” (Fa­ber & Fa­ber 2003; Ita­lian edi­tion Bom­pia­ni 2004), the film ver­sion of whi­ch won Ro­ger Mi­chell an award at Can­nes, along wi­th “The La­st Word” (Scrib­ner 2013, Ita­lian edi­tion Bom­pia­ni 2013) and “The No­thing” (Fa­ber & Fa­ber 2017, Ita­lian edi­tion Bom­pia­ni 2017). Co­py­right © 2017, Ha­nif Ku­rei­shi.

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