The Reluctant Fundamentalist, by Mohsin Hamid

“…America was engaged only in posturing. As a society, you were unwilling to reflect upon the shared pain that united you with those who attacked you. You retreated into myths of your own difference, assumptions of your own superiority. And you acted out these beliefs on the stage of the world, so that the entire planet was rocked by the repercussions of your tantrums…” p. 167

This book articulates the many tensions that have occured in the post-September 11 world. The story is told by the central figure Changez sitting at a Cafe in Pakistan; Changez is dictating his life story to a American who is on edge and nervous of the environment around him. But Changez assures him he has no need to worry as he describes his life in America at a high flying job and how would eventually become disillusioned working for the emporors. The book creates remarable tension and is written with a refined clarity. The book is written with great depth but also has very simple devises. The love affair Changez has with Erica uses a obvious metaphor that Erica who cannot forget her dead boyfriend Chris eventually makes love to Changez but cannot only do so but pretending Changez is Chris. Erica being Am-Erica, Christ being a slight analogy to Christianity maybe although this could be debated and of course Changez equates to changes. However, this description makes it seem so crass but Hamid makes it all seem so seamless and fitting.

The way that this book plays with assumptions is also intriuging. You cant help, at least I could’nt, being led to the assumption that Changez is a fundamental Islamist at least at the beginning of the book and that the American that he is talking to is a spie. Hamid however, quite deliberatley and using clever devises ensures that Chagnez is aggreived with his situation in America and with American foreign policy in firmly secular, nationalist and anti-colonislaist stances. Changez never alludes to Islam as being a driving force for his transformation. The American he talks to although we are given little detials about him and only through Changez this is important. Changez may think that the American is a spie and thus giving us suggestives that he is thus, but this may aslo be his paranoia that all Americans are spies and his concer/nervousness about Americans. Of course Changez was burnt in a very emotional way by both Erica and America.

For a great review of the book see James Lasdun.

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