Hanif Kureishi may never be able to walk or hold a pen again

Author and playwright Hanif Kureishi has said he is in a hospital in Rome following a fall on the 26th of December 2022 and is unable to move his arms or legs.

The 68-year-old British playwright, novelist and filmmaker – best known for his works The Buddha Of Suburbia, Intimacy and Mother – shared a message on Twitter in which he said he was being treated at Gemelli University Hospital in the Italian capital.

Kureishi said he was in the city on December 26 when he fell during a walk from Piazza del Popolo to Villa Borghese and then back to his apartment. The Oscar-nominated scriptwriter and author said he thought he was dying after his fall.

“I believed I had three breaths left. It seemed like a miserable and ignoble way to die,” he said on Friday.

He is in hospital and has had a spine operation that has led to “minor improvements” in recent days, he said.  “I woke up a few minutes later in a pool of blood, my neck in a grotesquely twisted position, my wife on her knees beside me,” he explained in a series of messages posted on Twitter.

Kureishi said he saw “a scooped, semicircular object with talons attached scuttling towards me” before realising it was his hand.

He added: “It occurred to me then that there was no co-ordination between what was left of my mind and what remained of my body. I had become divorced from myself. I believed I was dying. I believed I had three breaths left.”

The author also said his wife heard his “frantic shouting”, and that “she saved my life and kept me calm.

“For a few days I was profoundly traumatised, altered and unrecognisable to myself. I am in the hospital. I cannot move my arms and legs.” He continued: “I cannot scratch my nose, make a phone call or feed myself. As you can imagine, this is both humiliating, degrading and a burden for others.

Kureishi is still in the Gemelli hospital in Rome, where he has been since the fall. He said he cannot move his arms and legs, which he described as “humiliating, degrading and a burden for others”.

He said that he has had an operation on his spine and will begin physiotherapy and rehabilitation as soon as possible. “I want to thank the doctors and nurses at the hospital for all their extraordinary kindness, competence and care,” he said.

The writer asked his followers whether any of them knew of any voice-assisted hardware and software that would allow him “to watch, write and begin work again, and continue some kind of half life”.

After his post, Kureishi received well wishes from TV chef and food writer Nigella Lawson, journalist Sarfraz Manzoor, who co-wrote Blinded By The Light, writer Reni Eddo-Lodge, historian and author William Dalrymple and comedian Sanjeev Bhaskar.

Kureishi is known for tackling difficult subjects including the complexity of relationships and the marginalisation of minority groups.

In 1990, Kureishi published one of his most famous works, The Buddha Of Suburbia, which won the Whitbread Award for the best first novel and was later adapted for a BBC television series with a soundtrack by David Bowie.

The book is semi-autobiographical and draws on a number of Kureishi’s own experiences growing up in London. Kureishi’s second novel, The Black Album, was published in 1995 and deals with Islamic fundamentalism and freedom of speech, and was adapted for the stage in 2009.

His third novel, Intimacy, came in 1998 and follows the story of a man contemplating leaving his wife and children after feeling rejected by his wife.

He was made a CBE in 2008 and sold his archive to the British Library in 2014, which included personal diaries and notebooks, and also the working material for his major works.