The Reluctant Fundamentalist

I recently read the novel «The Reluctant Fundamentalist» by author Mohsin Hamid. It is a well-written novel about a young Pakistani, Changez, who tells an American he met in Lahore, about his old «successful» life in the USA. The novel is set in our time of huge challenges and global change. His life was perfect until September 11th, 2001, which made him feel that he had to choose sides. The Novel questions the American dream and ethnic tolerances accepted today.

What do I think of the novel?

I think the language is a bit challenging, but that is just me. I am used to reading a more “basic” version of English, but this is not quite it – the English I’m used to I mean. However, It is not a difficult book to read, but it most likely takes more time to read than you would expect. Perhaps because the language is more advanced, or maybe the fact that I had to work through the book while I read it – find answers to a diverse set of tasks – was the reason behind making the reading process longer. The novel itself is extraordinary and I like the way he reveals his thoughts. He was not afraid of speaking his mind, even when it came to sensitive topics, such as the terrorist attack on September 11, 2001. Instead of feeling sorry for all the victims – those who did not make it out alive or families who lost a beloved one – which is what normal people would do. He said that he saw September 11th as a symbol of America falling to its knees. To admit thoughts like that can get you in trouble – today people rarely dare to speak their mind – which makes this novel more interesting.

Does it seem realistic? Why/why not? In what way? 

Yes, but no. This is a novel about a young man achieving a great amount of good in his life but also experiences how society is at times messed up. That is realistic. A man living his best life in another country yet has to deal with life and the trouble that follows. It’s not science fiction nor impossible, but on the other hand, it can be difficult to achieve such greatness in that short amount of time. Although this is a novel, it can be unrealistic in that way that the whole novel is written like a dialog who is lead by Changez. Like I would sit with you and tell you everything that has happened the last couple of years in one conversation, including the people I have talked to, when I had sex and what I felt in all of those moments as well as what I said. Rarely do people do that – share lots and intimate information with a total stranger they met a few hours ago. So in one way it is unrealistic, on the other hand, it is not. Perhaps some people do that, but it is a rarity.

What has happened so far?

Changez, the main character, met an American at a coffee-table in Lahore, Pakistan. He introduces himself in perfect English saying  “excuse me, sir, but may I be of assistance”. He then tells the American about his childhood and how he got a scholarship to study at Princeton, the fact that he met and fell in love with an American girl, that he got a job offer, and felt that he was fully accepted as an American, all changed on September 11th, 2001.

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