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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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3,1931701,745 (3.67)428
Member:tmbcoughlin
Title:The Reluctant Fundamentalist
Authors:Mohsin Hamid
Info:Harvest Books (2008), Edition: 1, Paperback, 208 pages
Collections:Your library
Rating:****
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Work details

The Reluctant Fundamentalist by Mohsin Hamid (2007)

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» See also 428 mentions

English (162)  German (2)  Norwegian (2)  Danish (1)  Italian (1)  French (1)  All languages (169)
Showing 1-5 of 162 (next | show all)
Primo utilizzo concreto della funzione "scambi e vendite" di Anobii! Per sapere qualcosa di quella parte del mondo - aggiungendo in piu' il rapporto con *questa*parte - il libro vale ben di piu' de "Il cacciatore di aquiloni". La sua brevita' non permette l'approfondimento di molti temi, ma la visione che emerge è chiara e va a segno. E' scritto con mano delicata, con cortesia... con ferma attenzione. Le parole da notare sono riportate in corsivo, e fanno la loro differenza. ( )
  bobparr | Dec 14, 2014 |
This short novel is present as a monologue. Changez, a Pakistani, relates his time in America to an American visiting Lahore while they sit at a cafe. He tells of his time as a student at Princeton and his high-powered job in NYC after graduation. He also tells intimate details of his love life with an American woman named Erica, still suffering from the grief of losing her childhood friend and boyfriend. Changez's story takes place surrounding 9/11 and we hear about his growing disillusionment with America and his homesickness for his Pakistan.

The monologue aspect of the novel annoyed me in some ways. Changez is supposedly having a conversation with this American, but the only way the American's comments are recorded are through Changez's reactions to them. The ending is also extremely ambiguous and ends abruptly. I also thought the relationship between Erica and Changez was kind of annoying and almost disruptive to what I thought was the main point - one Pakistani's experience living in NYC during and after 9/11.

However, listening to this on audio really saved the book for me. The reader, Satya Bhabha, was excellent and made the monologue format work for me where I'm not sure it would have in print. This is the first example in my limited audiobook experience of a book that I'm fairly certain I liked more in audio than I would have as a physical book. ( )
  japaul22 | Dec 12, 2014 |
Changez, a young Pakistani who has studied in America and worked with a leading US valuation company, meets an anonymous American in Lahore and invites him to a local eatery. Over the course of an evening, we eavesdrop on their conversation, although we only hear Changez in what effectively becomes an extended monologue about his American experience.

Hamid's novella follows a format which is becoming quite typical of the more marketable types of literary writers: a story which would have been unremarkable in lesser hands is recounted by a quirky narrator and/or presented in an unusual structure and/or given a plot twist at the end. This gives the book a formulaic feel at times. That said, Hamid is good at what he does - the result is a work which is taut, gripping and topical. ( )
  JosephCamilleri | Aug 19, 2014 |
A curiously effective little novella. Hamid's narrative approach, putting the story in the mouth of an American-educated Pakistani in Lahore, addressing an unknown American interlocutor, feels forced at the start, and the curious diction he provides his narrator with feels almost like a poor translation and certainly does not represent any sort of ordinary spoken English. His plot seems almost too cliched to sustain even the scant 200 pages he's allotted himself, and it's almost impossible to make sense of the conclusion.

All of that being said, I devoured the book in an evening and felt well satisfied, if a little puzzled, at the end of it. On reflection, Hamid's decisions seem to be conscious, an echo of some of the more difficult and satisfying aspects of Saramago or Rushdie, and in the end did more to provoke than to annoy. That is, Hamid seems to have succeeded in writing a difficult novel, and not to have failed at writing an easy one. ( )
  kiparsky | Aug 2, 2014 |
I'm not sure what to make of it. The style was often hard to follow, the one-sided conversation with someone who clearly has some other agenda and the Erica character was that kind of female that men create that sets my teeth on edge. But there was a strangely compelling quality to it and an interestingly enigmatic ending. I think I will keep thinking about it. It certainly is much better than the horrible L'America.
  amyem58 | Jul 15, 2014 |
Showing 1-5 of 162 (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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First words
"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 Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:41:13 -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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