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The Reluctant Fundamentalistby Mohsin Hamid
Synopses & Reviews
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 meeting...
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 infatuation 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 budding 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.
"Some books are acts of courage, maybe because the author tries out an unproven style, addresses an unpopular theme or allows characters to say things that no one wants to hear. Mohsin Hamid's new novel, 'The Reluctant Fundamentalist,' does all those things. Told in the form of an extended monologue, the novel reflects on a young Pakistani's almost five years in America. After excelling... Washington Post Book Review (read the entire Washington Post review) at Princeton, Changez had become a highly regarded employee at a prestigious financial firm. He seemed to have achieved the perfect American life. We know from the beginning, however, that it will not last long. Changez narrates his story from a cafe in Lahore, his birthplace, while speaking to an American man whose role is unclear. Changez tells him, 'Yes, I was happy in that moment. I felt bathed in a warm sense of accomplishment. Nothing troubled me; I was a young New Yorker with the city at my feet.' (Tellingly, while he didn't see himself as a foreigner during this time, the two colleagues closest to him were also outsiders: one 'non-white,' the other a gay man who grew up poor.) In the aftermath of Sept. 11, as the tone of the country becomes more hostile, Changez's corporate cloak lifts, and his life in America no longer seems so perfect. Paralleling the narrative of Changez's work life is the tale of his romantic involvement with Erica, an elegant and well-to-do New Yorker who has emotional baggage that eventually leads to a breakdown. The impossible love story softens the book, allowing Changez to tell the same story from a different perspective. Both of his potential conquests (America, Erica) have deep appeal, yet both have been damaged, making it impossible for them to be part of Changez's life. Hamid's writing is strongest when Changez is analyzing the finer points of being a foreigner, 'well-liked as an exotic acquaintance.' When he goes out with Erica, he takes 'advantage of the ethnic exception clause that is written into every code of etiquette' and wears a kurta and jeans because his blazer looks shabby. Later, when he is back in Pakistan and his parents ask for details of his American life, he says, 'It was odd to speak of that world here, as it would be odd to sing in a mosque; what is natural in one place can seem unnatural in another, and some concepts travel poorly, if at all.' Perhaps as a result of speaking Urdu and English, Hamid's style is delightfully distinct. His clever tale lingers in the mind, partly because of the nature and originality of the troubled love story and partly because of Changez himself, who is not always likable. Or noble. The courage of 'The Reluctant Fundamentalist' is in the telling of a story about a Pakistani man who makes it and then throws it away because he doesn't want it anymore, because he realizes that making it in America is not what he thought it was or what it used to be. The monologue form allows for an intimate conversation, as the reader and the American listener become one. Are we sitting across from Changez at a table in Lahore, joining him in a sumptuous dinner? Do his comments cause us to bristle, making us more and more uncomfortable? Extreme times call for extreme reactions, extreme writing. Hamid has done something extraordinary with this novel, and for those who want a different voice, a different view of the aftermath of 9/11, 'The Reluctant Fundamentalist' is well worth reading. Laila Halaby is the author of 'West of the Jordan' and 'Once in a Promised Land.'" Reviewed by Judy BudnitzMichael DirdaJonathan YardleyLaila Halaby, Washington Post Book World (Copyright 2006 Washington Post Book World Service/Washington Post Writers Group)
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"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." Kiran Desai
"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." Philip Pullman
"This novel's firm, steady, even beautiful voice proclaims the completeness of the soul when personal and global issues are conjoined." Booklist
"A superb cautionary tale, and a grim reminder of the continuing cost of ethnic profiling, miscommunication and confrontation." Kirkus Reviews
"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
A New York Times Notable Book
About the Author
Mohsin Hamid grew up in Lahore, Pakistan, and attended Princeton and Harvard. His first novel, Moth Smoke, was a Betty Trask Award winner, PEN/Hemingway Award finalist, and New York Times Notable Book of the Year. His writing has also appeared in Time, The New York Times, and other publications. He lives in London.
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