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The Reluctant Fundamentalist


"The Reluctant Fundamentalist" is Mohsin Hamid's thrillingly provocative international bestseller. It is shortlisted for the Man Booker prize in 2007 ... Show synopsis

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Reviews of The Reluctant Fundamentalist

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  • A Brave Novel Jan 30, 2008
    by rejoyce

    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.

  • A Very Fast Read Aug 2, 2007
    by pattybake

    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.

  • The Compelling "Reluctant Fundamentalist" Apr 16, 2007
    by Ziffle

    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.

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