‘The Body’ by Hanif Kureishi

Would you trade in your old body, in exchange for a younger one?

I ran into ‘The Body’ by Hanif Kureishi completely haphazardly and, as it often happens, I am still very happy about it.

A dear friend of mine was in the process of house cleaning, when she decided three of her books (almost all the books she had, in fact) had to go.

I thought if she had to give them to anybody, she might have as well given them to me.

As I read the blurb, the question hit me: Would you trade in your old body, in exchange for another, younger one?

Adam, the old playwright of Hanif Kureishi’s story, says yes.

It’s late night in London when he is approached by a shadowy organisation that claims the ability to transfer his brain from his own old body into a much younger model.

The idea of being 20-something again seems very appealing, when your body is aging and every third thought is about the grave.

Convinced as he is that body and soul are two separate identities, Adam accepts. After all, his body might be another one, but his consciousness will still be the same.

It’s a brand new life and Adam rides it all the way across Europe, until realising something is amiss, but it’s way too late to go back.

Through this novella, Kureishi challenges the idea of personal identity as detached from the physical being. To make it simple, what he says is: “You are what you are, mind and body and soul and everything else. Deal with it.”

‘The Body’ lends the title to a collection of short stories, but it is also the one that stuck with me the most (maybe because it was the longest one, 60 pages. I always had problems with very short stories).

It is a story I would recommend to anybody, even more considering how every day we undergo such a great pressure to stay young.

This story is a good – and eerie – reminder that our body is part of what we are. Body and soul are truly not such distinct matters.

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