Thursday, 2 April 2009

14. Mohsin Hamid - The Reluctant Fundamentalist

I’m still working out how to take this book. On the one hand, it is clumsy and naive, and on the other it’s a very clever look at international relations with touches of romance and insanity.

The book is narrated by Changez, a young man from Pakistan. He attends Princeton in the USA and builds a life as a high-flying executive. He meets a young woman with whom he falls in love. And then things change.

The reader is cast in the role of an American visiting Pakistan. Changez joins you as you sit at a café in a marketplace. And, over the course of the afternoon and evening, he tells you his story. He is very polite and, I think, socially inept. His story is fascinating even though, at times, he offends you. Throughout the narrative there are hints and signals that something in this situation is very wrong. And then Changez wraps up his story while you walk back to the hotel. And we come to the end of this slim volume with many (perhaps most) of our questions left unanswered.

Clumsy and naïve? Clever and compelling? I’ll add that question to the list.

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