Typescript draft of The Rainbow Sign by Hanif Kureishi


This is a typescript draft of ‘The Rainbow Sign’, an autobiographical essay by Hanif Kureishi. It was first published in 1986 with his screenplay for My Beautiful Laundrette (1985), a film about a young gay British-Pakistani boy living in Britain during the Thatcher years. Both essay and screenplay explore the experience of being British-Pakistani, through themes of race, class, sexuality, politics and religion.

The essay’s title and epigraph is drawn from The Fire Next Time, a book of two essays on race and religion by African-American author James Baldwin. Baldwin’s work opens, 'God gave Noah the rainbow sign, / No more water, the fire next time!'. The lyric is from a spiritual, and conveys Baldwin’s concluding, cautionary message that there will be dire social consequences if Americans do not address racism and prejudice, and allow their hatred to win over love. Baldwin, who stood for Kureishi as ‘intelligence and love combined’, underpins the tone and message within ‘The Rainbow Sign’.

Although the draft is close to the published essay, it retains traces of being originally written in the third person ─ ‘Hanif’ is repeatedly crossed out. In the essay Kureishi reveals that he initially used this narrative voice, ‘because of the difficulty of directly addressing myself to what I felt then, of not wanting to think about it again’.

Full title:
Hanif Kureishi Papers: The Rainbow Sign by HanIf Kureishi: 1986
Manuscript / Typescript / Draft
Hanif Kureishi
Usage terms

© Hanif Kureishi. You may not use the material for commercial purposes. Please credit the copyright holder when reusing this work.

Held by
British Library
Add MS 89091/15/1

Related articles

An introduction to My Beautiful Laundrette

Article by:
Sukhdev Sandhu
Literature 1950–2000, Capturing and creating the modern, Exploring identity

Hanif Kureishi's 1985 film My Beautiful Laundrette portrays a young British Asian man who runs a laundrette with his white schoolfriend, and the romantic relationship between the two. Sukhdev Sandhu explains how the film marked a radical departure from previous representations of British Asians in mainstream culture.

'Knock, knock, it’s Enoch': Hanif Kureishi remembers the effect of Enoch Powell

Article by:
Hanif Kureishi
Power and conflict, Exploring identity

Hanif Kureishi describes how the MP Enoch Powell made racism the basis of his political position, and recalls the climate of fear Powell's hate-mongering created among people of colour in the 1970s.

Cultural references in The Buddha of Suburbia

Article by:
John Mullan
Art, music and popular culture, Literature 1950–2000

John Mullan considers Hanif Kureishi's The Buddha of Suburbia as a historical novel, and tracks its references to high and low culture.

Related collection items

Related people

Related works

My Beautiful Laundrette

Created by: Hanif Kureishi

My Beautiful Laundrette (1985) was the first screenplay by Hanif Kureishi, commissioned by Channel 4’s Film on ...

The Black Album

Created by: Hanif Kureishi

The Black Album is the second novel by the playwright, screenwriter, and author, Hanif Kureishi. Set in 1989 (though ...

The Buddha of Suburbia

Created by: Hanif Kureishi

The Buddha of Suburbia (1990) is a bestselling novel by the British writer Hanif Kureishi. Its main protagonist is a ...