The Reluctant Fundamentalist

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					    The Reluctant Fundamentalist

        By Mohsin Hamid

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    Book Review of The Reluctant Fundamentalist by Mohsin Hamid:

“Try these sticky, orange sweets—jalebis—but be careful, they are hot! I see
you approve. Yes, they are delicious. It is curious how a cup of tea can be
refreshing even on a warm day such as this—a mystery, really—but there you
have it. ”

These lines are taken from the novel “The Reluctant Fundamentalist, by Mohsin
Hamid”. The lines seem to give you an imagery of the food items, the hot-
orange jalebis, the cup of tea and the weather too. The entire novel is so
convincingly projected that you can feel all the characters and conversations
going around you.

When I saw its cover for the very first time I thought it would be a similar
story on how life changed for the Muslims in America after the 9/11 attacks
but I was completely gripped by this novel. The novel is about the 9/11 attacks
but the characters are not directly affected by the attacks. The novel is written
in a monologue style which makes it even more engaging and appealing. It
talks about Pakistan, America, Relation between the two countries, cultural
differences, a wrecked love affair, hybrid identity, sufferings because of the
9/11 attack, uncertainties and some unasked questions and a few untold
answers. The protagonist of this novel, Changez narrates his story to an
unidentified American agent. He tells him about his life before and after the
9/11 attack. He narrates about his days at Princeton, his job at Underwood
Samson, his girlfriend Erica and how he was tarnished and degraded by the
Americans after the 9/11 attacks. He thought he was an American too like all
his white American friends but he was proved wrong after the attacks.

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America is the place where the action develops but he refolds it in Lahore at a
café in Anarkali. The way Mohsin intertwines the present with the past is
amazing. Changez discusses his life in America before the attack with the
jalebis coming and the tea being served then continuing with his experience of
the job he got in America and within seconds we could notice the girls from
The National College of Arts in Anarkali and again continuing with his
changing conditions in America because of the attack of 9/11 while the fingers
tearing the flesh of that kabeb. I mean it is amazing how Mohin made us see
and visualize each and every chapter rather each and every line of the novel.

Changez tells the American Agent that at first he was pleased with the attacks
because of the symbolism that someone has brought America to knees, but
later he realized that he (representative of all the Muslims) was the one who
was thrown to the knees from where he could never get up. Mohsin has
beautifully represented all the Muslims through a single person (Changez). He
had to leave America and settle down in Pakistan in his city Lahore, where he
was born. Changez’z own identity goes through a seismic shift. He wears a
beard after coming to Pakistan.

There are dialogues in which Changez criticizes the government of Pakistan
for showing selfishness towards Afghanistan which is a Muslim nation too.
Throughout the novel it has been displayed that the American Agent is nervous
as if he’s a terrorist or he’s nervous because he thinks these Pakistani men
having beards are going to kill him anytime. There are various sentences and
statements in the novel which look like mere dialogues and conversations but
they actually have hidden questions which Mohsin wants us to find and
answer them with our own perception and observation.

The story ends with the night prevailing, which can again be symbolic because
at night you are unable to see or judge people with complete visibility.

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Changez offers to drop the American stranger to his hotel and the American
feels as if someone is following them and suddenly puts his hand inside his
jacket and Changez sees the black metal thing coming out of his jacket. The
story ends here with lots of questions to be answered. The power of the novel is
the lack of knowing. "

“The Reluctant Fundamentalist” is of 192 pages only but has a lot to say. It tells
us that one should not imagine that all Pakistanis are potential terrorists, just
as it should not be imagined that all Americans are undercover assassins. This
novel informs us that we should stop generalizing and presuming things.
Changez did all the talking in the novel but Mohsin wants us to do all the
negotiation. According to me this novel by Mohsin Hamid, silently covers both
personal and political aspects with intelligently constructed dialogues which
are simple but meaningful.

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