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The Reluctant Fundamentalist by Mohsin Hamid
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The Reluctant Fundamentalist (original 2007; edition 2008)

by Mohsin Hamid (Author)

Series: Blackbirds

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
4,0272101,781 (3.68)520
Member:Donna828
Title:The Reluctant Fundamentalist
Authors:Mohsin Hamid (Author)
Info:Harvest Books (2008), Edition: First, 191 pages
Collections:Your library
Rating:***1/2
Tags:1001 (2008 Ed., ), Immigration, Pakistan, Read in 2018

Work details

The Reluctant Fundamentalist by Mohsin Hamid (2007)

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English (198)  Italian (3)  German (2)  Norwegian (2)  Danish (1)  Spanish (1)  Catalan (1)  French (1)  All languages (209)
Showing 1-5 of 198 (next | show all)
Read for my Literary Investigations class. I actually read the last 50 pages or so after attending my professor's lecture on the book. I found that after listening to our class discussion I read the book in an entirely new way.

We are all, I think, reluctant fundamentalists.

I was particularly struck by the repitition of nostalgia. Changez is nostalgic, Erica is nostalgic, and in the same way the US and Pakistan are nostalgic.

Read this book. It's intensely complex. At least, that's what I told my lover before placing my dog-eared paperback copy in his hands. ( )
  bookishblond | Oct 24, 2018 |
A great read. Rightfully deserves the popularity it received.

http://onerightword.blogspot.co.uk/2017/05/the-reluctant-fundamentalist-mohsin.h...

( )
  ashkrishwrites | Aug 29, 2018 |
I found this book deeply disturbing, in a good way, if one can be disturbed in a good way. I can't imagine a more subtle and even enjoyable way to make me (any reader?) question their own biases, suspicions, disregard for global humanity , and role in horrific international circumstances. The love affair part of the book did little for me, but the rest was highly impactful. Everyone should real this book. ( )
  technodiabla | Aug 11, 2018 |
The Reluctant Fundamentalist was a page turner for me. Narrated in the first person to an unknown listener, it told the life changing effect 9/11 had on a young Pakistani man living in the U.S. He had worked hard, earned good grades at Princeton, then landed a good paying job at a big corporation. He was seeing the American dream as attainable when 9/11 changed the world's perception of him and his perception of the U.S. The altered trajectory of his life was painful to watch but compelling to ponder. ( )
  UnionCongUCC | Aug 1, 2018 |
Previously to writing Exit West, the author wrote The Reluctant Fundamentalist. It is very well written and gets to the heart of the matter with essentially only a conversation between two strangers, an American and Pakistani. Both seem wary of the other. Changez, the observant Pakistani, sees an uneasy American man in the Bazaar and invites him to sit for a cup of tea. Within the span of an afternoon and evening, Changez, relates his American experience, pre- and post 9/11 and why he is back in Pakistan. And yes, a few jabs are thrown regarding Americans and their way of life. It is an eye opener for those who might have wondered why any foreign group would attack the U.S or what foreigners think of Americans in general. The conclusion is up for the reader to decide what happens next but a little too ambiguous for my liking. If you look deeper into the novel the reader can find metaphors and personifications for just about anything related to the subject matter. Another great idea for book clubs and discussion. ( )
  Carmenere | Jun 25, 2018 |
Showing 1-5 of 198 (next | show all)
It seems that Hamid would have us understand the novel's title ironically. We are prodded to question whether every critic of America in a Muslim country should be labeled a fundamentalist, or whether the term more accurately describes the capitalists of the American upper class. Yet these queries seem blunter and less interesting than the novel itself, in which the fundamentalist, and potential assassin, may be sitting on either side of the table.
 
There's undoubtedly a great novel waiting to be written out of the anguished material of these kinds of east/west encounters. This book may not be it, but its author (who won a Betty Trask award for his first novel, Moth Smoke) certainly has the potential to write it.
added by mikeg2 | editThe Guardian, James Lasdun (Mar 3, 2007)
 
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"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."
Quotations
"For despite my mother's request, and my knowledge of the difficulties it could well present me at immigration, I had not shaved my two-week-old beard. It was, perhaps, a form of protest on my part, a symbol of my identity, or perhaps I sought to remind myself of the reality I had just left behind; I do not know recall my precise motivations. I know only that I did not wish to blend in with the army of clean-shaven youngsters who were my coworkers, and that inside me, for multiple reasons, I was deeply angry." (p.148-9)
"...one of my coworkers asked me a question, and when I turned to answer him, something rather strange took place. I looked at him - at his fair hair and light eyes and, most of all, his oblivious immersion in the minutiae of our work - and thought, you are so foreign. I felt in that moment much closer to the Filipino driver than to him; I felt I was play-acting when in reality I ought to be making my way home, like the people on the street outside."
(p.77)
"Have you heard of the janissaries?" "No," I said. "They were Christian boys, he explained, "captured by the Ottomans and trained to be soldiers in a Muslim army, at that time the greatest army in the world. They were ferocious and utterly loyal: they had fought to erase their own civilizations, so they had nothing else to turn to... How old were you when you went to America?"
(p.171-2)
"There really could be no doubt: I was a modern-day janissary, a servant of the American empire at a time when it was invading a country with kinship to mine and was perhaps colluding to ensure that my own country faced the threat of war. Of course I was struggling! Of course I felt torn!"
(p.173)
"But at that moment, my thoughts were not with the victims of the attack - death on television moves me most when it is fictitious and happens to characters with whom I have built up relationships over multiple episodes - no, I was caught up in the symbolism of it all, the fact that someone had so visibly brought America to her knees." (p.83)
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Book description
At a café table in Lahore, a bearded Pakistani man converses with an uneasy American stranger. As dusk deepens to night, he begins the tale that has brought them to this fateful encounter . . .

Changez is living an immigrant’s dream of America. At the top of his class at Princeton, he is snapped up by an elite valuation firm. He thrives on the energy of New York, and his budding romance with elegant, beautiful Erica promises entry into Manhattan society at the same exalted level once occupied by his own family back in Lahore.

But in the wake of September 11, Changez finds his position in his adopted city suddenly overturned, and his relationship with Erica shifting. And Changez’s own identity is in seismic shift as well, unearthing allegiances more fundamental than money, power, and maybe even love.

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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0151013047, Hardcover)

Mohsin Hamid's first novel, Moth Smoke, dealt with the confluence of personal and political themes, and his second, The Reluctant Fundamentalist, revisits that territory in the person of Changez, a young Pakistani. Told in a single monologue, the narrative never flags. Changez is by turns naive, sinister, unctuous, mildly threatening, overbearing, insulting, angry, resentful, and sad. He tells his story to a nameless, mysterious American who sits across from him at a Lahore cafe. Educated at Princeton, employed by a first-rate valuation firm, Changez was living the American dream, earning more money than he thought possible, caught up in the New York social scene and in love with a beautiful, wealthy, damaged girl. The romance is negligible; Erica is emotionally unavailable, endlessly grieving the death of her lifelong friend and boyfriend, Chris.

Changez is in Manila on 9/11 and sees the towers come down on TV. He tells the American, "...I smiled. Yes, despicable as it may sound, my initial reaction was to be remarkably pleased... I was caught up in the symbolism of it all, the fact that someone had so visibly brought America to her knees..." When he returns to New York, there is a palpable change in attitudes toward him, starting right at immigration. His name and his face render him suspect.

Ongoing trouble between Pakistan and India urge Changez to return home for a visit, despite his parents' advice to stay where he is. While there, he realizes that he has changed in a way that shames him. "I was struck at first by how shabby our house appeared... I was saddened to find it in such a state... This was where I came from... and it smacked of lowliness." He exorcises that feeling and once again appreciates his home for its "unmistakable personality and idiosyncratic charm." While at home, he lets his beard grow. Advised to shave it, even by his mother, he refuses. It will be his line in the sand, his statement about who he is. His company sends him to Chile for another business valuation; his mind filled with the troubles in Pakistan and the U.S. involvement with India that keeps the pressure on. His work and the money he earns have been overtaken by resentment of the United States and all it stands for.

Hamid's prose is filled with insight, subtly delivered: "I felt my age: an almost childlike twenty-two, rather than that permanent middle-age that attaches itself to the man who lives alone and supports himself by wearing a suit in a city not of his birth." In telling of the janissaries, Christian boys captured by Ottomans and trained to be soldiers in the Muslim Army, his Chilean host tells him: "The janissaries were always taken in childhood. It would have been far more difficult to devote themselves to their adopted empire, you see, if they had memories they could not forget." Changez cannot forget, and Hamid makes the reader understand that--and all that follows. --Valerie Ryan


A Conversation with Mohsin Hamid
Set in modern-day Pakistan, Mohsin Hamid's debut novel, Moth Smoke, went on to win awards and was listed as a New York Times Notable Book of the Year. His bold new novel, The Reluctant Fundamentalist, is a daring, fast-paced monologue of a young Pakistani man telling his life story to a mysterious American stranger. It's a controversial look at the dark side of the American Dream, exploring the aftermath of 9/11, international unease, and the dangerous pull of nostalgia. Amazon.com senior editor Brad Thomas Parsons shared an e-mail exchange with Mohsin Hamid to talk about his powerful new book

Read the Amazon.com Interview with Mohsin Hamid



(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:15:30 -0400)

(see all 5 descriptions)

"Changez is living an immigrant's dream of America. At the top of his class at Princeton, he is snapped up by the elite valuation firm of Underwood Samson. He thrives on the energy of New York, and his budding romance with elegant, beautiful Erica promises entry into Manhattan society at the same exalted level once occupied by his own family back in Lahore. But in the wake of September 11, Changez finds his position in his adopted city suddenly overturned and his relationship with Erica eclipsed by the reawakened ghosts of her past. And Changez's own identity is in seismic shift as well, unearthing allegiances more fundamental than money, power, and maybe even love"--Jacket.… (more)

(summary from another edition)

» see all 14 descriptions

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