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Musterlösung 2013: Textverständnis und Analyse: Fiktionaler Text: "The neighbourhood" (GK)


  1. Outline what is special about the area from the narrator’s point of view. (30 BE)
  2. Compare the narrator’s experience of multicultural London to challenges the US society faces today referring to material discussed in class. (35 BE)



The text “The Neighbourhood” is an extract from the novel Something to Tell You by Hanif Kureishi, published in 2008. The narrator, Dr. Jamal Khan, describes his multicultural neighbourhood in West London between Hammersmith and Shepard’s Bush and the people who live in it.

The area in which Dr. Khan lives is a part of London with people of different ethnic background who speak a variety of languages other than English. Dr. Khan’s friend Henry has reacted to this pragmatically by learning a little of some of the most commonly spoken language of the neighbourhood in order to get by in bars and shops.

A strong contrast that characterises the area is that beside the many poor people who live there a number of richer people seem to have recently set up houses in the neighbourhood. This does not alter the fact that the narrator compares it to cities like Bogotá or Marrakesh. However, Jamal considers the ever-changing face of his neighbourhood with new shops, restaurants, estate agents and beauty parlours a good sign.

What surprises him is the fact that despite the obvious social disparity there is less violence in the area than he would have expected. To his mind the true ghettos of London were those wealthier boroughs like Belgravia or Knightsbridge that could not present such a heterogenic array of inhabitants. The ethnic and social diversity of his borough are, what, in Jamal’s eyes, made London a world city.

(244 words)


Dr Jamal Khan, the narrator, describes a borough of London which he is quite familiar with, having lived there all his adult life. Nevertheless, he observes the changes in this multicultural and socially diverse neighbourhood. People from every ethnicity and religion have settled in the area and have brought with them their cultures, languages and customs. In this part of London, English has lost its accustomed role as lingua franca and so Dr Khan and his friend have reacted to this deficiency by learning some of the languages spoken in this borough (see l.6). Dr Khan perceives the typical problems of the neighbourhood: poverty, the continuous arrival of new immigrants from Poland and Muslim Africa, cramped living conditions, homelessness, alcoholism and crime (see ll.22-23; ll.25-28; l.50). What exacerbates the situation is the fact that the influx of more and more wealthier people further widens the gap between rich and poor. At the same time Jamal is pleased with the apparent positive developments of his borough: The emergence of new shops and restaurants, which he puts down to the rising house prices in the area, is in his eyes a good sign.

While Hanif Kureishi’s narrator Jamal displays a very optimistic and relaxed attitude towards immigrants, many US citizens strongly oppose to the growing influx of Hispanic immigrants along the Southern borders of the USA. Ann Jaramillo’s novel La Linea about the perilous journey of Miguel and Elena, two teenagers who jump onto a train to cross the border between Mexico and the USA, has gained new topicality by the latest attempts of US politicians to send thousands of children and under-aged illegal immigrants from Latin America back to their home countries. Many of these children and teenagers have managed to enter the US riding what is commonly known as “La Bestia”, The Beast, a train in which many immigrants hope to successfully make their way to the USA despite the fact that this trip is fraught with dangers.

In view of its history the USA has always been a country of immigration and has traditionally been very liberal-minded about this issue. The American Dream has inspired millions of people who left their homes countries for reasons of political or religious persecution, poverty or the wish for freedom. Events like 9/11, however, have greatly altered USA immigration policy. The Americans have generally become more suspicious and less open towards immigration. The fact that the influx of Hispanic immigrants has not slowed but sped up and the recent economic crisis also have not aided to a more tolerant view on immigration. On the contrary! In view of the continued flow of migrants both the USA and Britain set up restrictions and Green Card system which attaches a permit of residence to the demand of certain jobs on the labour market.

(475 words)

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