"The Reluctant Fundamentalist" is Mohsin Hamid's thrillingly provocative international bestseller. It is shortlisted for the Man Booker prize in 2007. Now a major film directed by Mira Nair and starring Kate Hudson and Kiefer Sutherland. 'Excuse me, sir, but may I be of assistance? Ah, I see I have alarmed you. Do not be frightened by my beard. I ...
"The Reluctant Fundamentalist" is Mohsin Hamid's thrillingly provocative international bestseller. It is shortlisted for the Man Booker prize in 2007. Now a major film directed by Mira Nair and starring Kate Hudson and Kiefer Sutherland. 'Excuse me, sir, but may I be of assistance? Ah, I see I have alarmed you. Do not be frightened by my beard. I am a lover of America...' So speaks the mysterious stranger at a Lahore cafe as dusk settles. Invited to join him for tea, you learn his name and what led this speaker of immaculate English to seek you out. For he is more worldy than you might expect; better travelled and better educated. He knows the West better than you do. And as he tells you his story, of how he embraced the Western dream - and a Western woman - and how both betrayed him, so the night darkens. Then the true reason for your meeting becomes abundantly clear...Challenging, mysterious and thrillingly tense, Mohsin Hamid's masterly "The Reluctant Fundamentalist" is a vital read teeming with questions and ideas about some of the most pressing issues of today's globalised, fractured world. "Masterful...A multi-layered and thoroughly gripping book, which works as a poignant love story, a powerful dissection of how US imperialist machinations have turned so many people against the world's superpower - and as a thriller that subtly ratchets up the nerve-jangling tension towards an explosive ending". ("Metro"). "Beautifully written ...more exciting than any thriller I've read for a long time". (Philip Pullman). "A brilliant book". (Kiran Desai). "Admirably spare and amazingly exciting". (Rachel Cooke, "New Statesman"). Mohsin Hamid is the author of "The Reluctant Fundamentalist", "Moth Smoke" and "How to Get Filthy Rich in Rising Asia". His fiction has been translated into over 30 languages, received numerous awards, and been shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize. He has contributed essays and short stories to publications such as the "Guardian", "The New York Times", "Financial Times", "Granta", and "Paris Review". Born and mostly raised in Lahore, he spent part of his childhood in California, studied at Princeton University and Harvard Law School, and has since lived between Lahore, London, and New York.
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The Reluctant Fundamentalist, by Mohsin Hamid, is a brave novel for frightening times. Like novels by Don DeLillo, Claire Messud and Ian McEwan, it pivots on the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center, but its perspectgive departs radically from those other novels.
Changez (whose name contains the word change), the narrator, is a Pakistani from a once-prominent family in Lahore, who graduates with honors from Princeton University, hired by a prominent corporate firm, Underwood Samson, in Manhattan and falls in love with a classmate Erica, a daughter of American privilege yet one haunted by the death of a former lover. In fact, pastness grips both protagonist and beloved, despite Underwood Samson's amoral credo to "focus on the fundamentals."
Changez's world unalterably shifts on 9/11, and the narrator's response to the fall of the Twin Towers is the most shocking of the novel's provocations. But the author contextualizes Changez's metamorphosis; there's an inexorable logic to his radical fury. Changez is a Middle East immigrant possessed with double vision: he sees the disparity between Pakistan and the united States, the Third and the First World, the gulf of hostility and apprehension between the two. While the Iraq War ramps up, Changez is pulled to his homeland by the deepening conflict between India and Pakistan. The personal is inextricably linked to the political.
The novel's conceit is that Changez's narrative is one-half of a conversation with an unnamed American at a tea shop in Lahore. Hamid's device is daring, but one should not assume that narrator is author. This is a performance: the monologue is convincingly sustained, and the tone remarkably controlled even when a hirsute Changez encounters the post--9/11 suspicions of both colleagues and strangers.
For some Americans, The Reluctant Fundamentalist will hardly be "an easy read"--it traces the arc of both a corrosive bitterness and an abiding love--but the literary imagination is no more unilateral and bounded than our multipolar, globalized world. This novel's perspective is chilling, harrowing, and absolutely necessary.
Aug 2, 2007
A Very Fast Read
This book was picked for my bookclub. After I got it it was a very insightful read, but I was able to read it in a day. It has a lot to say about being American as well as not being an American. It does cause a lot of thinking after it is read.
Apr 16, 2007
The Compelling "Reluctant Fundamentalist"
In Mohsin Hamid's second novel, Changez tells his life story to an American over a long dinner in Lahore, Pakistan. The story is told sparingly, with great passion and with rising personal tension as the story unfolds.
Changez, a wiz-kid at Princeton University and a hand-picked consultant for a top New York City-based financial valuation firm, is living the immigrant's American Dream. Life in NYC is, oddly, comfortable for the young Pakistani, due to the cosmopolitan flavor of the city. He is a rising star in his field, respected by his peers and mentored by an American corporate leader who sees the hunger of the outsider in Changez' personality. Further, he is in love with a wealthy young American girl who is unable to love him in return, due to her pathological fixation with a former love, Chris, who has died.
As the story unfolds, the personal issues that have arisen out of the chaos of the World Trade Center attacks of September 11, 2001 come gradually into focus. By the end of this compelling and beautifully-written work, we have come to know Changez as intimately as a close friend, and have come to understand some of the wrenching personal and political underpinnings of the American/Middle-Eastern conflicts.
A brilliant and charming young Pakistani comes to see his beloved America undermining his country's interests throughout the Middle-Eastern part of the world. In the post-9/11 conflict between Pakistan and her larger neighbor, India, America does nothing to come to the aid of the Pakistanis. At one point in the long dinner, Changez tells the American how there was a certain pleasure for him in the Twin Tower attacks, and he notes the American's sudden tension and anger. He asks the American if he doesn't feel a little gratification when US troops invade an Afghan village, destroying it in their anti-terrorist operations?
The story reads like a thriller, with a gradually rising understanding of the thought process of the Changezs of the world, and their conception of an America that this reader cannot always see clearly from inside his own country.
Publishers Weekly, 2007-05-28 Hamid grabs hold of the American Dream as seen through the eyes of a young Princeton grad from Pakistan in a post-9/11 world. As the protagonist, Changez, finds moderate business success and romantic love in New York City, his heritage and identity will be lost in a sea of subtle and blatant bigotry as well as international politics. In relating this journey from loving to loathing of all things American, Changez speaks to a nameless and speechless American whom he encounters in the marketplace of his home city, Lahore, Pakistan. Bhabha's English-influenced Pakistani accent proves soothing and inviting for listeners. His gentle demeanor captures the courteous and polite manner of Changez. His American accent comes in the form of a Midwestern accent with a confident-almost arrogant-lilt. He lapses when it comes to vocalizing women. Though lighter, his voice exudes a stoic resonance instead of a feminine one. But the casual tone of Changez telling his life story translates perfectly with the help of Bhabha's velvet voice. Simultaneous release with the Harcourt hardcover (Reviews, Dec. 11). (Apr.) Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information.
Publishers Weekly, 2006-12-11 Hamid's second book (after Moth Smoke) is an intelligent and absorbing 9/11 novel, written from the perspective of Changez, a young Pakistani whose sympathies, despite his fervid immigrant embrace of America, lie with the attackers. The book unfolds as a monologue that Changez delivers to a mysterious American operative over dinner at a Lahore, Pakistan, cafe. Pre-9/11, Princeton graduate Changez is on top of the world: recruited by an elite New York financial company, the 22-year-old quickly earns accolades from his hard-charging supervisor, plunges into Manhattan's hip social whirl and becomes infatuated with Erica, a fellow Princeton graduate pining for her dead boyfriend. But after the towers fall, Changez is subject to intensified scrutiny and physical threats, and his co-workers become markedly less affable as his beard grows in ("a form of protest," he says). Erica is committed to a mental institution, and Changez, upset by his adopted country's "growing and self-righteous rage," slacks off at work and is fired. Despite his off-putting commentary, the damaged Changez comes off as honest and thoughtful, and his creator handles him with a sympathetic grace. (Apr.) Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
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