Reading Challenges

March 7, 2011

Hideous Kinky by Esther Freud


I read Hideous Kinky five years ago or so after seeing the film adaptation, but decided to pick up this quick read again after my first visit to Morocco.  The author, daughter of  renown painter Lucian Freud and great-granddaughter of Sigmund Freud, spent her early childhood in Morocco traveling alongside her older sister and bohemian mother. Freud's illustrious family ties are deceptive, however, as Hideous Kinky details the impoverished lifestyle the children often led as their single mother searched for a way to make ends meet between payments received from their father back home in England.

What's refreshing about Hideous Kinky is that unlike many memoirs, Freud is quite adept at recounting how she perceived events in Morocco as a five year old child, capturing both the simplicity and imagination of a young girl not yet encumbered by prejudice or the colonialist attitudes of adult expatriates. The young sisters' adventures are both humorous and insightful, largely taking place in the cosmopolitan hub of Marrakech and its famous central square, Djama El Fna, as well as a few other escapades in the remote countryside that involve hitchhiking and a dangerous road trip to Algiers.  

Freud also writes with a neutral voice about her mother, although readers may draw their own conclusions about what constitutes responsible parenthood, especially when the girls visibly yearn for stability that their well-meaning mother, on a personal spiritual quest, fails to provide. References to the mother also offer a window into the counter-culture movement of the West that infiltrated Morocco in the 1960's and 70's (escape from convention in Anglo-Saxon societies versus the relaxed quality of the Mediterranean lifestyle). In short, the book provides a nice balance between its observations of Morocco and Moroccan people, as well as the country's foreign guests (largely from Europe and North America) that were heavily present post-colonialism during the hippy era.

Film adaptation of Hideous Kinky
When I finished my second reading of Hideous Kinky, I also decided to give the film (of the same title), a second go as well. Although the cast does an excellent job, the story itself suffers quite a bit at the hands of the script, which turns the film into more of the mother's story and her romance with Bilal, a local, well-loved and accepted by the sisters. As a result, it loses the children's perspective of Morocco and focuses more on the spiritual aspects of expatriate life at the time (Danish and Americans alike sit around a table wishing on a dead Sufi's shoe, for instance). The film also creates a picture-postcard vision of Morocco, omitting the grittier street life described in the book (and anchored in reality) that takes place amid Marrakech's stunning pink architecture and lush surrounding valleys. 

Click HERE to read an interview with Esther Freud in which she discusses her writing process, Hideous Kinky, and her novel The Sea House.


2 comments:

  1. I love memoirs ;)
    Great review.

    I'm following from Book Blogs.

    ecwrites.blogspot.com

    ReplyDelete
  2. Thanks for stopping by, Elisabeth! I'm going to enjoy discovering your writing :)

    ReplyDelete

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