Hari Kunzru’s White Tears: A Daring, Important, and Frightening Novel

"Brilliant contemporary diagnosis": Hari Kunzru explores cultural appropriation in the hipster satire "White tears"

Hari Kunzru mixes contemporary satire and suspense thriller with a precise look at white power in his novel “White Tears”.

Hari Kunzru’s fifth, critically acclaimed novel White Tears is many things at once: a thriller, a white hipster satire, a tribute to the forgotten geniuses of music history, and an exploration of cultural appropriation.

In order to describe this book, the Evening Standard writes:

“Fear, high tempo, and razor-sharp excitement. White tears take the temperature of the nation by linking barbarism before the policy of racial segregation was abolished with the situation today, where memory loss characterizes the so-called post-racial America.”

Nostalgia Trip

White tears follow two 25-year-olds in a hip-striped New York in the 2010s. Seth is awkward and shy; Carter is the cool one with intricate tattoos and “inherited means he did not hesitate to use to promote the good cause: maximum fun”. Together they run a sound studio that specializes in a coveted, analog sound. They call themselves audio specialists, and analog artists. People love them.

Carter only listens to black music (“it was more intense and real than anything made by whites”), while Seth is obsessed with recording the sound of the city around him. One day he happens to pick up an unknown, blues-singing man in the park.

Fascinated by the clip, Carter posts it online in a self-constructed mix that sounds like times gone by. He gives the clip the invented title “Charlie Shaw’s Graveyard Blues”.

Hallucinatory White Power

To Seth and Carter’s surprise, the soundtrack is a sensation among record collectors, taken to be a lost masterpiece. When contacted by someone who claims to have met Charlie Shaw in 1959, they are drawn into a thriller-like plot where the present disintegrates and the past emerges. A story of greed, envy, revenge, and exploitation reveals itself.

In a text where different schedules in a hallucinatory way constantly mix with each other, white power, violence and oppression are uncomfortably closely linked. In other words, old money and cultural capital are sprinkled in blood in this novel.

We can also put “White Tears” in the words this way ‘a rough text with the sound of thriller and horror, full of criminal suspense, magical elements, and political-social turns.’

Burning Current

Hari Kunzru was on the literary magazine Granta’s list of the 20 best, young, British authors in 2003. He has been translated into twenty languages.

He is praised for his talent for giving famous material a new twist by many critics, which describe White Tears as a sharp and special contemporary analysis and a burning current revenge fantasy.

We believe the book is both daring and important, challenging and frightening – It will shock you, terrify you, disturb you, and that is exactly what is meant. It is a book that does not let anyone go or get off the hook.

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