Saturday, August 12, 2017

The Reluctant Fundamentalist [2007]

By the time Cold War was in its final leg, the American state’s principal antagonist had started shifting from Soviet “Red Scare” to the Middle-East. Though the Soviet Invasion of Afghanistan, harrowingly covered in Svetlana Alexievich’s polyphonic non-fiction Zinky Boys, was possibly the inflexion point of this changing world political order, 9/11 unarguably sealed this change and left in no doubt who the West’s arch-enemy now was. Princeton and Harvard Law School educated Pakistani author Mohsin Hamid’s gripping, delicately balanced and deceptively lucid novel The Reluctant Fundamentalist provided a telling account of what this meant and its repercussion – politically and existentially – on one individual. It starts in an eerily suspenseful manner when a mysterious Pakistani man strikes an unlikely conversation with an American man at a café in Lahore. Chronicled in the form of a dramatic monologue, the story’s enigmatic narrator Changez confides his startling story to the fidgety, suspicious stranger, each potentially with agendas of their own – how he, as a brilliant young man, graduates summa cum laude (much like the author himself) from Princeton, gets hired by a prestigious financial consultancy firm into valuation of ailing organizations, and quickly becomes the hottest rising star there; and, as the final step to his acculturation, he also embarks on a tentative relationship with the beautiful and emotionally fragile WASP daughter of a wealthy New Yorker. Beneath this success, however, everything isn’t hunky-dory, and his glittering American Dream starts crumbling with what follows post the collapse of the World Trade Center. As early evening turns to night, and tea is replaced with kebabs, Changez’s looping, one-sided story gradually reaches a fever pitch in sync with the moody atmosphere and sense of something sinister lurking round the corner. Though one may as well virulently disagree with the book’s political crux as grudgingly agree with it, Hamid’s tackling of a complex, sensitive and provocative subject as this with such candour and in such an engrossing manner certainly merits appreciation.

Author:Mohsin Hamid
Genre: Political Drama/Political Thriller
Language: English
Country: Pakistan

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