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

by Mohsin Hamid

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3,5591951,487 (3.68)460
Member:acardin11
Title:The Reluctant Fundamentalist
Authors:Mohsin Hamid
Info:Harvest Books (2008), Edition: 1, Paperback, 208 pages
Collections:Your library, Favorites
Rating:*****
Tags:Books I read in 2009, favorite

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The Reluctant Fundamentalist by Mohsin Hamid (2007)

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English (183)  Italian (3)  German (2)  Norwegian (2)  Danish (1)  Spanish (1)  Catalan (1)  French (1)  English (194)
Showing 1-5 of 183 (next | show all)
I didn't quite believe in the character of the girlfriend but otherwise liked this very much, even the ambiguous ending. Does anyone else feel a strong F Scott Fitzgerald vibe in his writing? ( )
  laurenbufferd | Nov 14, 2016 |
THE RELUCTANT FUNDAMENTALIST is Mohsin Hamid's fictional tale of Changez, a bright young Pakistani man, a 2001 graduate of Princeton who snags a prestigious job in high finance and falls in love with a wealthy young American woman, and what happens to him after 9/11. It is a very disturbing read, as it is meant to be, because it takes you inside the mind of this highly intelligent and ambitious young man, and you are privy to his gradual changes in attitude toward America and all that he had ever worked toward in his young life.

It's a quick read at less than 200 pages, but even in that brief span, the conceit of young (22) Changez telling his whole story to an American stranger he meets in a Lahore bazaar begins to wear thin. Changez's voice is the only one throughout the book. That method of narrative became rather irritating about halfway through the book. I wished that Hamid had told his tale in a more conventional manner. But maybe that's just me, because the book is effective, to a certain extent, in giving a typical American an inside look at what it would be like to be a young Middle Eastern-looking man, with a beard, living in NYC in the months following the 9/11 attack. And the reader sees, understands, how it radically changes the arc of his life and aspirations.

A very different sort of book. Worth the read. I will recommend it to anyone who wants a glimpse into the psyche of 'the other side' and how one might become radicalized. The book offers a very frightening and feasible explanation on why this may indeed be, as author Dexter Filkins calls it, THE FOREVER WAR.

- Tim Bazzett, author of the memoir, BOOKLOVER ( )
  TimBazzett | Sep 7, 2016 |
Compelling work- I read it in one sitting
By sally tarbox on 17 May 2012
Format: Paperback
One of those books I didn't think I'd like from the title, having no particular interest in Islam or politics.
But I was immediately drawn into it. The lead character, Changez, addresses an American he meets in a Lahore teashop (and by extension you, the reader.) You are never allowed to forget that this is a conversation rather than an autobiography, as Changez asks questions or makes polite comments to his American (although the latter's voice is never heard.)
Far from being a religious man, he starts out his narrative as a top Pakistani student who has gained a scholarship to Princeton. Here he aims high, mixes with his fellow students, drinking, holidaying, falling in love and ultimately landing a prestigious job.
But cracks start to emerge in his American persona.
'I was a modern-day janissary, a servant of the American empire at a time when it was invading a country with a kinship to mine.'
Unputdownable. ( )
  starbox | Jul 10, 2016 |
Beautifully written tale of a Pakistani meeting an American at a coffee shop in Lahore.and telling him his lifestory which was hugely affected by 9/11. The ending is interesting - where is it going? Want to see the film now... ( )
  cbinstead | Jun 12, 2016 |
A book with an interesting but flawed premise; a young Muslim man, the economic hope of his family in Pakistan, throws away a promising future in an American company for the sake of a misguided belief that his country’s sovereignty is in peril from American government interests. No it does not belong on The List for it is there solely because the author is Pakistani and uses the events of 9/11 as one of the factors for the protagonist’s radicalization. Did the author leave religious fundamentalism out of the mix for fear of not being taken seriously by publishers? I wonder if the author feels the same way now in light of the recent bombings in Pakistan caused by insurgents using Afghanistan as their base of support. ( )
  ShelleyAlberta | Jun 4, 2016 |
Showing 1-5 of 183 (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"--Book jacket.… (more)

(summary from another edition)

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