Marci San Francisco, November 7, 2013 (view all comments by Marci San Francisco)
Read this book. Read it if you already doubt the nature of American foreign policy in Asia. Read it especially if you cannot fathom why anyone would question the rightness of American foreign policy in Asia. Read it if you just want a fascinating read. Wonderful writing: articulate, intriguing, suspenseful. And amazingly brief for the punch it delivers.
Mohsin Hamid writes so well that were it not for the propulsive force of his quietly building suspense story, the reader would be tempted to linger over passages of elegantly beautiful prose. THE RELUCTANT FUNDAMENTALIST is a timely book, yes, but it is far more: the novel underscores the talent of a superlative writer unafraid to place before the public a story that is bound to create a disturbing response at the end of the roller coaster ride.
Cleverly written as a monologue from a Pakistani young man named Changez (a name when pronounced delivers major clues to the story!) as he joins an American in a cafe in Lahore, Pakistan. The story reveals a young lad from a family once well to do in Pakistan, but fractured by the political changes suffered by that country, a lad who goes to America to attend Princeton University where he transforms himself into an 'American stance', performs exceedingly well academically, and joins the wealthy American classmates on jaunts where he encounters the beautiful but mysteriously aloof Erica. Changez and Erica become friends and were it not for Erica's recovering from a loss of her previous lover Chris who died of cancer, the two seem to be destined to become lovers. Erica is from a wealthy family who accepts Changez even more readily when upon graduation he is awarded a position with the prestigious firm Underwood Samson. Changez learns the feeling of the American preoccupation with success and wealth while still being committed to his family ties in Pakistan. While Changez is on a business trip to Manila he watches the 9/11 event and he is surprised that he feels a bit happy that haughty America is being brought to her feet.
Changez returns home finding his physical appearance now a cause for suspicion in the bruised country that afforded him success. He attempts to stay connected with Erica but Erica has retreated into her fragile state of melancholia and is eventually hospitalized. Changez continues his successful climb up the American dream ladder of success until he meets a gentleman Juan-Bautista in Chile who admonishes him that his devotion to his work for American companies might force him to forget the importance of home and family. Changez is changed and his decision regarding his employment, his lack of knowledge of Erica's whereabouts, and his growing anger at America preemptive attacks on countries near his home - all result in his returning to Pakistan, and the encounter with the American at the cafe. And Hamid leaves us there, afloat on a sea of questions and new information about the people we have been attacking and the result is a pungent experience in re-thinking the global atmosphere.
The book is relatively short (184 pages) and since it is written as one extended conversation, it is next to impossible not to read the entire book at one sitting: leaving the story even for a moment would be like leaving a personal encounter - rude. The story is superb, written with facile elegance, and contains views from outside our cloistered world that refreshingly informs us to re-examine our point of view. Highly Recommended on every level. Grady Harp
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by Kiran Desai,
"A brilliant book. With spooky restraint and masterful control, Hamid unpicks the underpinnings of the most recent episode of distrust between East and West. But this book does not merely excel in capturing a developing bitterness. The narrative is balanced by a love as powerful as the sinister forces gathering, even when it recedes into a phantom of hope. It is this balance, and the constant negotiation of the political with the personal, that creates a nuanced and complex portrait of a reluctant fundamentalist."
by Philip Pullman,
"I read Mohsin Hamid's The Reluctant Fundamentalist with increasing admiration. It is beautifully written — what a joy it is to find such intelligent prose, such clarity of thought and exposition — and superbly constructed. The author has managed to tighten the screw of suspense almost without our being aware it is happening, and the result is a tale of enormous tension. I read a lot of thrillers — or rather I start reading a lot of thrillers, and put most of them down — but this is more exciting than any thriller I've read for a long time, as well as being a subtle and elegant analysis of the state of our world today. I was enormously impressed."
"This novel's firm, steady, even beautiful voice proclaims the completeness of the soul when personal and global issues are conjoined."
by Kirkus Reviews,
"A superb cautionary tale, and a grim reminder of the continuing cost of ethnic profiling, miscommunication and confrontation."
"Mr. Hamid reaffirms his place as one of his generation's most inventive and gifted writers." Michiko Kakutani, The New York Times
"A globalized version of The Great Gatsby . . . [Hamid's] book is nearly that good." Alan Cheuse, NPR
"Extraordinarily clever." Ron Charles, The Washington Post
From the internationally bestselling author of The Reluctant Fundamentalist, the boldly imagined tale of a poor boys quest for wealth and love . . .
His first two novels established Mohsin Hamid as a radically inventive storyteller with his finger on the worlds pulse. How to Get Filthy Rich in Rising Asia meets that reputation—and exceeds it. The astonishing and riveting tale of a mans journey from impoverished rural boy to corporate tycoon, it steals its shape from the business self-help books devoured by ambitious youths all over rising Asia.” It follows its nameless hero to the sprawling metropolis where he begins to amass an empire built on that most fluid, and increasingly scarce, of goods: water. Yet his heart remains set on something else, on the pretty girl whose star rises along with his, their paths crossing and recrossing, a lifelong affair sparked and snuffed and sparked again by the forces that careen their fates along.
How to Get Filthy Rich in Rising Asia is a striking slice of contemporary life at a time of crushing upheaval. Romantic without being sentimental, political without being didactic, and spiritual without being religious, it brings an unflinching gaze to the violence and hope it depicts. And it creates two unforgettable characters who find moments of transcendent intimacy in the midst of shattering change.
Now a major motion picture
Short-listed for the Man Booker Prize
New York Times bestseller
“Extreme times call for extreme reactions, extreme writing. Hamid has done something extraordinary with this novel.” —Washington Post
“One of those achingly assured novels that makes you happy to be a reader.” —Junot Diaz
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 immigrants 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 Changezs own identity is in seismic shift as well, unearthing allegiances more fundamental than money, power, and maybe even love.
“Brief, charming, and quietly furious . . . a resounding success.” —Village Voice
A Washington Post and San Francisco Chronicle Best Book of the Year
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