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November 10, 1996|CHARLES SOLOMON

THE BLACK ALBUM by Hanif Kureishi (Scribners: $11, 287 pp.). In this mordant black comedy, the author of "My Beautiful Laundrette" continues his examination of ethnic conflicts in post-Thatcher London. Shahid, a young Pakistani immigrant, finds himself caught between a group of self-proclaimed Islamic radicals and the forces of Western rationalism--represented by the artist then known as Prince and Deedee Osgood, a sensual white professor. The clash between the cultures climaxes with the 1989 publication of "The Satanic Verses" and the proclamation of the fatwah against Salman Rushdie. Although he admires their integrity, Shahid cannot accept the rigid ideals of his flamboyantly religious friends. Kureishi draws his portrait of a crumbling post-Imperial civilization with his usual acerbic humor.

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