viernes, 4 de marzo de 2011

The Reluctant Fundamentalist by Mohsin Hamid

Initially, the form of The Reluctant Fundamentalist by Mohsin Hamid seems forced. Surely it will restrict what the author can achieve. By the end, however, the form has become a crucial part of the plot. The turnabout then works very well indeed.

Changez has returned to Pakistan from the USA, where he both studied and worked. He is in conversation with a foreign visitor to his country. Apparently they are sitting in a café. The visitor is probably an American but, surprisingly, the conversation is entirely one-sided. Basically, Changez tells his life story, eventually relating in detail the conspiring events that led him to his current preoccupations and status.

He was the child of an upper class family in Lahore. He was a bright thing from the start and when the time was right a place at Princeton beckoned. He excelled and was offered a job with a business consulting group, where he learned much more than merely contemporary jargon. He also fell head over heels in love with an American girl, herself a gifted student with a desire to write. She wanted to tell stories, beginning perhaps with one featuring herself and describing her former boyfriend’s struggle with terminal illness. Initially at least she seems newly besotted with her new Pakistani friend, with Changez’s unexpected and wholly foreign politeness, good manners and dress sense all creating favourable impressions.

The silent listener absorbs all this without comment as he and Changez await their food in a Lahore restaurant. Everything looks rosy for our graduate and the listening tourist seems to respond to the raconteur’s story. The narrator then begins to describe a new era, an era that began on September 11 2001 and the destruction of the World Trade Center in New York. The Reluctant Fundamentalist’s tone changes abruptly as the world and the individual’s place in it seem to need reinterpretation. As things turn out, Changez returns to Pakistan, where he takes up teaching. And still our listener absorbs the story without response.

The book’s denouement is both surprising and satisfying. The form that has seemed to be a handicap suddenly contributes to the experience. We are left with an enigmatic, open ending where surely something will happen. Mohsin Hamid perhaps allows each of us to fill in some blanks.

Mohsin Hamid’s The Reluctant Fundamentalist is quite a short book. It possibly just exceeds the novella form. But in a succinct and sophisticated way it addresses and comments on some complex issues. Its methods are both sympathetic and involving. Its efforts convince the reader without being didactic. It is thus a significant achievement.

1 comentario:

aisha dijo...

Hi, cool post. I have been thinking about this topic,so thanks for sharing. I will probably be subscribing to your blog. Keep up great writing!!!
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