The Reluctant Fundamentalist
8 journalers for this copy...
Revealing much with spare and often beautiful prose, I found this insightful and powerful.
The book was written in a way that made me feel like I was sitting at a table with an unknown American, the Pakistani and a waiter who kept bringing food and everyone is suspicious of each other -- perhaps mirroring the feelings of Americans and Muslims. The narrative style was totally different but worked very well for me.
Changez studied in the US away from his home and his family in Lahore. He was hired by a top of the line valuation firm and set out, as many recent graduates do, at the top of his game ready to conquer the world. Along the way he falls in love and 9/11 happens. This causes him to have an identity crisis and reevaluate his loyalties and allegiances. He has what for an American would be a horrific response to 9/11 and yet somehow this is explained throughout the narrative. He is a Muslim in New York City at a time when American flags are being flown and American pride is shown everywhere together with a growing hatred towards the countries that harbored the terrorists - including his own Pakistan. It was a difficult situation for a 22 year old young adult to be in. It's only when he meets an old Chilean man that he finally begins to understand what is eating at his core and does something about it.
So, back to the ending. I think it would be fun, if when the bookring comes to an end, we all came back with our thoughts as to how the book ends (if we did it now it would spoil the ending for all other readers).
Will be sending this to next in line in the next couple of days.
Perhaps I'm in a negative mood about bookrings in general at the moment but this was a very forgettable piece of fiction. Reluctant Fundamentalist? Non-existent by the sounds of things.
PMed Emily2 for their address.
06/08/2007 - I have had no reply from Emily2. So I've posted an ISO on the BC forums. This Thursday I am going to Paris for a few days. If she's not replied by the time I get back then I'll move onto the next person.
16/08/2007 - Still no reply from Emily2 so I have moved onto Tarna.
The book looks interesting. However, I do have some other books to read before this one. But I'll be as fast as I can, as always. :)
The Reluctant Fundamentalist brought Continental Divide by Seymour Martin Lipset to my mind. He says, “In Europe and Canada, nationality is related to community, one cannot become un-English, or un-Swedish. Being an American, however, is an ideological commitment. It is not a matter of birth. Those who reject American values are un-American.” At first, Changez is all American; he seems to adore the States. He lives his American dream, it’s his golden opportunity. And he’s accepted as such. He’s the golden boy, the one with a Great Future. After 9/11, however, the attitudes change. Because of his appearances and his ethnic background he becomes un-American, a potential enemy. Well, I’m neither Muslim nor American and I haven’t been to the States since July 2001. But I can’t help wondering if USA is changing or has changed since then. Perhaps what Lipset said is now outdated? Maybe it’s not how you feel about the American values anymore but what others think you’re feeling?
I once took a course on American literature. I learned that names are very important and meaningful in American fiction, they often symbolize something else. Magers and Quinn says, “The protaganist is Changez; his girlfriend is Erica. When, after September 11, America changes (ummm... Erica... Changez... get it?) our anti-hero becomes the reluctant fundamentalist of the title.”—The names count, wouldn’t you say?
I like open endings, they imitate life. Even so, the ending of this novel was quite shocking. There are so many possibilities... Oh, I don’t know.
In any case, the book is great. I loved it. Thanks for sharing, smilingheron!
I’ve PM’d kasenka for her address. I’ll mail the book as soon as I get it.
Edit Oct. 2, 2007. Mailed the book today.
EDIT 27.10.2007 I'm sending the book today to iliotropio. Happy reading!
Thank you so much smilingheron for giving me the chanche to discover this very special story!
On its way to okyrhoe.
I just finished writing a lengthy JE for another post-9/11 book, so let's see what I'll have to say about this one...
I too was a young non-American brought to serve the great educational system of that nation, under the guise of a ‘generous’ scholarship package. I’m very grateful for the opportunity, but like the fictional Changez, I could not avoid feeling that "they" were getting a lot more out of me than they were willing to receive/learn from my own cultural wealth. Not only was I excelling at the academic field I was studying, I was simultaneously attuned to the minutiae of contemporary American popular culture. Meanwhile, though, my colleagues could barely pinpoint my country on the map; they also did not care to learn this information, even if for appearance’s sake. One couldn’t help feeling the exchange as being indeed one-sided. So it was easy for me to get into Changez’ skin.
However, I still feel that the mysterious American should have been given an opportunity to speak up more than he does; "that" side of the ideological argument isn't that deeply portrayed.
Anyway, on a second reading I was able to catch some of the subtleties in Mohsin Hamid’s novel. Besides the play on the character names, there are also numerous direct and indirect metaphorical references to Star Wars as well as the crusades, adding layers of meaning to the novel’s theme. And of course the choice of Flight 417 out of all Tintin titles is no random coincidence either.
Another thing I was able to appreciate better on the second reading is the variation in tone between the old and the reformed Changez. When he recounts the past he speaks with the easygoing diction characteristic of American prose. When he is in the Lahori present, his speech bears the idiosyncrasies of post-colonial English.
Thank you smilingheron for organizing the ray and okyrhoe for all lovely cards!