Thursday, April 26, 2007

The Reluctant Fundalmentalist by Mohsin Hamid

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.

You can read more of the review here , but there are some spoilers if you read the review further.

I am listening to the novel on CD and the reader (Satya Bhabha) gives the flavor of a young British-educated young Pakistani to his speech along with all his feelings: anger, mystery, overbearance, etc. His voice adds to the novel's elegance and terror.

I think I want to suggest that you listen to the CD instead of reading the novel. I've never made such a suggestion before.



Anonymous said...

Well without reading the book I can only imagine how hard it was for him. Luckily I've never been a target of social hatred because of my race.
Like somebody, I don't remember who exactly, said: People will hate arabs until they find someone new to hate. Whether it's illegal immigrants, israelies, that's irrelevant.

the teach said...

You and I are lucky, never to have been the target of racism. How insightful you are!