The Reluctant Fundamentalist

The Reluctant Fundamentalist

by Mohsin Hamid

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Now a major motion picture
Short-listed for the Man Booker Prize
A New York Times bestseller
A Washington Post and San Francisco Chronicle Best Book of the Year
A New York Times Notable Book

“Extreme times call for extreme reactions, extreme writing. Hamid has done something extraordinary with this novel.”Washington Post
“One of those achingly assured novels that makes you happy to be a reader.”—Junot Diaz
“Brief, charming, and quietly furious . . . a resounding success.”—Village Voice 

At a café table in Lahore, a bearded Pakistani man converses with an uneasy American stranger. As dusk deepens to night, he begins the tale that has brought them to this fateful encounter . . .
          Changez is living an immigrant’s dream of America. At the top of his class at Princeton, he is snapped up by an elite valuation firm. He thrives on the energy of New York, and his budding romance with elegant, beautiful Erica promises entry into Manhattan society at the same exalted level once occupied by his own family back in Lahore. But in the wake of September 11, Changez finds his position in his adopted city suddenly overturned, and his relationship with Erica shifting. And Changez’s own identity is in seismic shift as well, unearthing allegiances more fundamental than money, power, and maybe even love.


Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780156033121
Publisher: HMH Books
Publication date: 04/03/2007
Sold by: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 192
Sales rank: 111,628
File size: 1 MB
Age Range: 14 - 18 Years

About the Author

MOHSIN HAMID grew up in Lahore, Pakistan, and attended Princeton and Harvard. His first novel, Moth Smoke , was a Betty Trask Award winner, PEN/ Hemingway Award finalist, and New York Times Notable Book of the Year. His writing has also appeared in Time, The New York Times, and other publications. He lives in London.

MOHSIN HAMID is the author of three novels. His latest novel, Exit West, has been short-listed for the 2017 Man Booker Prize. Moth Smoke, his first novel, was a Betty Trask Award winner, PEN/ Hemingway Award finalist, and New York Times Notable Book of the Year. His second, The Reluctant Fundamentalist, a bestseller in the United States and abroad, was also short-listed for the Man Booker Prize. Hamid’s writing has appeared in Time, the New York Times, and other publications.


London, U.K.

Date of Birth:


Place of Birth:

Lahore, Pakistan


A.B., Princeton University, 1993; J.D., Harvard Law School, 1997

Read an Excerpt

EXCUSE ME, SIR, but may I be of assistance? Ah, I see I have alarmed you. Do not be frightened by my beard: I am a lover of America. I noticed that you were looking for something; more than looking, in fact you seemed to be on a mission, and since I am both a native of this city and a speaker of your language, I thought I might offer you my services.
 How did I know you were American? No, not by the color of your skin; we have a range of complexions in this country, and yours occurs often among the people of our northwest frontier. Nor was it your dress that gave you away; a European tourist could as easily have purchased in Des Moines your suit, with its single vent, and your button-down shirt. True, your hair, short-cropped, and your expansive chest—the chest, I would say, of a man who bench-presses regularly, and maxes out well above two-twenty-five—are typical of a certain type of American; but then again, sportsmen and soldiers of all nationalities tend to look alike. Instead, it was your bearing that allowed me to identify you, and I do not mean that as an insult, for I see your face has hardened, but merely as an observation.
 Come, tell me, what were you looking for? Surely, at this time of day, only one thing could have brought you to the district of Old Anarkali—named, as you may be aware, after a courtesan immured for loving a prince—and that is the quest for the perfect cup of tea. Have I guessed correctly? Then allow me, sir, to suggest my favorite among these many establishments. Yes, this is the one. Its metal chairs are no better upholstered, its wooden tables are equally rough, and it is, like the others, open to the sky. But the quality of its tea, I assure you, is unparalleled.
 You prefer that seat, with your back so close to the wall? Very well, although you will benefit less from the intermittent breeze, which, when it does blow, makes these warm afternoons more pleasant. And will you not remove your jacket? So formal! Now that is not typical of Americans, at least not in my experience. And my experience is substantial: I spent four and a half years in your country. Where? I worked in New York, and before that attended college in New Jersey. Yes, you are right: it was Princeton! Quite a guess, I must say.
 What did I think of Princeton? Well, the answer to that question requires a story. When I first arrived, I looked around me at the Gothic buildings—younger, I later learned, than many of the mosques of this city, but made through acid treatment and ingenious stonemasonry to look older—and thought, This is a dream come true. Princeton inspired in me the feeling that my life was a film in which I was the star and everything was possible. I have access to this beautiful campus, I thought, to professors who are titans in their fields and fellow students who are philosopher-kings in the making.
 I was, I must admit, overly generous in my initial assumptions about the standard of the student body. They were almost all intelligent, and many were brilliant, but whereas I was one of only two Pakistanis in my entering class—two from a population of over a hundred million souls, mind you—the Americans faced much less daunting odds in the selection process. A thousand of your compatriots were enrolled, five hundred times as many, even though your country’s population was only twice that of mine. As a result, the non-Americans among us tended on average to do better than the Americans, and in my case I reached my senior year without having received a single B.
 Looking back now, I see the power of that system, pragmatic and effective, like so much else in America. We international students were sourced from around the globe, sifted not only by well-honed standardized tests but by painstakingly customized evaluations—interviews, essays, recommendations—until the best and the brightest of us had been identified. I myself had among the top exam results in Pakistan and was besides a soccer player good enough to compete on the varsity team, which I did until I damaged my knee in my sophomore year. Students like me were given visas and scholarships, complete financial aid, mind you, and invited into the ranks of the meritocracy. In return, we were expected to contribute our talents to your society, the society we were joining. And for the most part, we were happy to do so. I certainly was, at least at first.
 Every fall, Princeton raised her skirt for the corporate recruiters who came onto campus and—as you say in America—showed them some skin. The skin Princeton showed was good skin, of course—young, eloquent, and clever as can be—but even among all that skin, I knew in my senior year that I was something special. I was a perfect breast, if you will—tan, succulent, seemingly defiant of gravity—and I was confident of getting any job I wanted.
 Except one: Underwood Samson & Company. You have not heard of them? They were a valuation firm. They told their clients how much businesses were worth, and they did so, it was said, with a precision that was uncanny. They were small—a boutique, really, employing a bare minimum of people—and they paid well, offering the fresh graduate a base salary of over eighty thousand dollars. But more importantly, they gave one a robust set of skills and an exalted brand name, so exalted, in fact, that after two or three years there as an analyst, one was virtually guaranteed admission to Harvard Business School. Because of this, over a hundred members of the Princeton Class of 2001 sent their grades and résumés to Underwood Samson. Eight were selected—not for jobs, I should make clear, but for interviews—and one of them was me.
 You seem worried. Do not be; this burly fellow is merely our waiter, and there is no need to reach under your jacket, I assume to grasp your wallet, as we will pay him later, when we are done. Would you prefer regular tea, with milk and sugar, or green tea, or perhaps their more fragrant specialty, Kashmiri tea? Excellent choice. I will have the same, and perhaps a plate of jalebis as well. There. He has gone. I must admit, he is a rather intimidating chap. But irreproachably polite: you would have been surprised by the sweetness of his speech, if only you understood Urdu. Where were we? Ah yes, Underwood Samson. On the day of my interview, I was uncharacteristically nervous. They had sent a single interviewer, and he received us in a room at the Nassau Inn, an ordinary room, mind you, not a suite; they knew we were sufficiently impressed already. When my turn came, I entered and found a man physically not unlike yourself; he, too, had the look of a seasoned army officer. “Changez?” he said, and I nodded, for that is indeed my name. “Come on in and take a seat.” His name was Jim, he told me, and I had precisely fifty minutes to convince him to offer me a job. “Sell yourself,” he said. “What makes you special?” I began with my transcript, pointing out that I was on track to graduate summa cum laude, that I had, as I have mentioned, yet to receive a single B. “I’m sure you’re smart,” he said, “but none of the people I’m talking to today has any Bs.” This, for me, was an unsettling revelation. I told him that I was tenacious, that after injuring my knee I had made it through physiotherapy in half the time the doctors expected, and while I could no longer play varsity soccer, I could once again run a mile in less than six minutes. “That’s good,” he said, and for the first time it seemed to me I had made something of an impression on him, when he added, “but what else?”
 I fell silent. I am, as you can see, normally quite happy to chat, but in that moment I did not know what to say. I watched him watch me, trying to understand what he was looking for. He glanced down at my résumé, which was lying between us on the table, and then back up again. His eyes were cold, a pale blue, and judgmental, not in the way that word is normally used, but in the sense of being professionally appraising, like a jeweler’s when he inspects out of curiosity a diamond he intends neither to buy nor to sell. Finally, after some time had passed—it could not have been more than a minute, but it felt longer—he said, “Tell me something. Where are you from?”
Copyright © 2007 by Mohsin Hamid
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What People are Saying About This

Philip Pullman

"I read Mohsin Hamid's The Reluctant Fundamentalist with increasing admiration. It is beautifully written—what a joy it is to find such intelligent prose, such clarity of thought and exposition—and superbly constructed. The author has managed to tighten the screw of suspense almost without our being aware it is happening, and the result is a tale of enormous tension. I read a lot of thrillers—or rather I start reading a lot of thrillers, and put most of them down—but this is more exciting than any thriller I've read for a long time, as well as being a subtle and elegant analysis of the state of our world today. I was enormously impressed."

Mira Nair

"A searing and powerful account of a Pakistani in New York after 9/11."

From the Publisher


"A rare glimpse into modern-day Pakistan . . . The voices that emerge are sarcastic and sad, a lively lament . . . reminiscent of V. S. Naipaul and Salman Rushdie."—CHICAGO TRIBUNE

"Stunning . . . [Hamid] has created a hip page-turner about the mysterious country that both created the sophisticated Benazir Bhutto and hanged her father."—LOS ANGELES TIMES

Kiran Desai

"A brilliant book. With spooky restraint and masterful control, Hamid unpicks the underpinnings of the most recent episode of distrust between East and West. But this book does not merely excel in capturing a developing bitterness. The narrative is balanced by a love as powerful as the sinister forces gathering, even when it recedes into a phantom of hope. It is this balance, and the constant negotiation of the political with the personal, that creates a nuanced and complex portrait of a reluctant fundamentalist."

Reading Group Guide

Questions for Discussion

  1. At the beginning of the book, Changez says that his companion's "bearing" gives him away as an American. What does Changez mean by this? What are his deeper implications?
  2. What do we learn about the American who sits across the table from Changez? How does Hamid convey this information? What do we never learn about the American? Consider how what we don't know about him influences our understanding of both Changez's monologue and the author's intent.
  3. Who is Jim, and why does he take such a liking to Changez? What do they have in common? Is his sympathy for Changez genuine?
  4. In Chapter 5, Changez is in a hotel in Manila, packing his suitcase and watching television, when he sees the towers of the World Trade Center collapse. "And then I smiled," he confesses. Explore this scene as the turning point of the novel — in terms of plot, character, scope, and tone.
  5. In Chile, Changez befriends the head of the publishing company his firm is there to value. Why are the two men drawn to each other? Why has Changez suddenly become so disinterested in his work? Who were the janissaries? Why does their history resonate so strongly with Changez?
  6. Discuss the two meanings of "fundamentalist" Hamid's title plays on — the first religious, the second suggested by Underwood Samson's business commitment to "Focus on the fundamentals." What do the different meanings suggest about the novel's themes?
  7. The Reluctant Fundamentalist turns out to be quite a page-turner — a political thriller that builds to a memorable conclusion. What exactly happens at the end of the novel? What clues or foreshadowings tipped you off as to how the book would end? Why does Changez tell this stranger his story?
  8. Since 9/11, there has been a growing trend in contemporary fiction to write about the tragedy of that day and its aftermath. Compare The Reluctant Fundamentalist with some other "9/11 novels" you have read. What sets it apart or makes it unique?


1. The speech of the narrator, Changez, is rendered in a very literary, formal style. Why does the author choose to do this? How would it have affected your impression of the book if Changez’s speech had been reported in a more naturally conversational way?

2. Does the fact that we hear none of the American’s speech lead you to identify with him as the listener? Or does it suggest the American is hiding something?

3. None of the names – from Underwood Samson to Erica to the Pearl Continental hotel – has been chosen casually. How conscious were you of their significance as you read the story?

4. At the foot of page 45, Changez remarks: “Yes, we have acquired a certain familiarity with the recent history of our surroundings, and that – in my humble opinion – allows us to put the present into much better perspective.” How significant is this comment?

5. What devices and allusions does the author use to create a sense of increasing danger?

6. How important to the novel is Changez’s relationship with Erica?

7. On page 114, Changez says: “I did not know whether I believed in the truth of their [Erica and Chris’s] love; it was, after all, a religion that would not accept me as a convert.” Why does he express himself in these terms?

8. Does it seem logical to you that Changez abandons his career?

9. Do you think Changez tells the whole truth to the American?

10. What is about to happen at the end of the book?

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

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The Reluctant Fundamentalist 3.7 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 277 reviews.
WordsworthGreenwich More than 1 year ago
Customer Reviews The Reluctant Fundamentalist 135 Reviews 5 star: (44) 4 star: (29) 3 star: (32) 2 star: (16) 1 star: (14) Average Customer Review (135 customer reviews) Share your thoughts with other customers Search Customer Reviews Only search this product's reviews > See most helpful viewpoints Most Helpful First | Newest First A Reluctant Counterpoint for Changez, July 29, 2009 By Wordsworth "David" (Greenwich, CT) - See all my reviews I am now sipping a regular coffee at a Borders Cafe near Greenwich, CT after finishing your novel. Why is it that I am so disappointed in your literary work? As a Pakistani, you have come to know the best that America has to offer. Were you not admitted to the Ivy League at Princeton in place of a brilliant but perhaps more appreciative even a disadvantaged American citizen? Did you not then receive a high-paying job at a prestigious New York financial firm and send your earnings to your homeland? Did you not fall in love with a beautiful and intelligent, although psychologically scarred, Princeton woman from New York? Did you not enjoy prime business assignments and bonuses at the expense of your American counterparts, who were downsized during an economic downturn caused by 911 in New York? And yet you sympathize with the 911 attackers. Isn't this odd attitude of yours quite curious? It makes me think. You then become an anti-American advocate in your native land. I suppose, we should be grateful to you for your ubiquitous but most expressive, veiled ingratitude. The waitress comes with my modest bill. She smiles at me. But she is, no doubt, merely seeking a higher tip, wouldn't you agree? I will return your novel to Borders and seek my money back. I ask myself why I am so deeply offended by your novel. The greatest offense is perhaps that you have become so enriched by book sales in America of your very, very short novella. Another kindess from America plus such radiant critical reviews -- it boggles one's mind, does it not, at your opportunity and good fortune in America? I must deem your ingratitude an enigma but I see you shaking your head. Why do you seem so surprised by my natural counterpoint? Have you ever asked yourself what your life would be like if you had never left Lahore for America. Can you honestly deal with your fundamental, personal ingratitude as your homeland indifferently harbors our most mortal enemy in its mystic mountains -- a fervant fundamentalist who killed 3,000 innocent Americans working productively in the same business as you in New York, including many working parents who left widows and orphans behind in my home town only 35 miles away from Ground Zero? Did you not know that I volunteered to feed the firefighters and rescue squads there after the pernicious attack by radical fundamentalists on the Pile and then the Pit at the Twin Towers? Forgive me, but I am fundamentally offended by your creative work. Forgive me, yet again, if I urge my fellow American readers through an obnoxious narrative conceit, so like your own, to forsake your novel utterly and deeply urge them not to buy it.
huckfinn37 More than 1 year ago
This book is awful. It ends where it should begin and The author seems to be very anti-American. I will never read any book this author writes again.
Guest More than 1 year ago
The best thing about this book is the title. It's downhill after that. So cliché - brilliant but naive Pakistani gets Princeton education, great job, boodles of money only to discover that capitalism can be nasty. Then 9/11,the political chaos and America is fair game for the 'reluctant.' Hamid's single speaker technique is clever in advancing the idea of quieting the beast (America) - the one-sided conversation seems to be saying to the U.S. 'Shut up and listen.' Don't bother with this title.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
A more accurate title would be "The Unreluctant Bigot".
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book came highly recommended however when I finally got around to reading it, I realized this book is ruined by a narrator who is not only foolish, but completely selfish. He is given a full ride to Princeton by Princeton. He is given a cushy job in which he earns tons of money and he falls in love with an American girl. Yet, America is evil. After an entire novel in which this man enjoys the fruits America has to offer, he turns around a complains about this country. On top of that, he foolishly falls for a girl who from the very beginning is emotionally unavailable AND does something so demeaning for her that you lose all respect for him. The ending is supposed to be shocking and just ends up disappointing and vague. I would not recommend this book to anyone!
Dorobo More than 1 year ago
The writer uses the device of talking to someone to tell his story. The tension between leaving his country to study in America then obtain a high paying job right out of school is balanced against his emerging feeling of hatred towards America because the threat of invasion from India into his native Pakistan overwhelms him. The novel's setting is from before the Twin Towers attack through America's invasion of Afghanistan and India's threats against Pakistan. One feels sympathy for the young man torn between his new found income and his family's shrinking wealth.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Although there are numerous bad reviews on here I ask that you not be too deterred. This book has some wonderfully written descriptions, a quite intersting way of presenting itself, and a very thorough and engaging story. What I see to be a pretty common reason for poor reviews is that many people do not agree with the narrator/main character. But one does not have to fully agree with a character in order to appreciate their story. This book will put you in a precarious situation where you will have to think for yourself (oh my!) and make decisions about how far you agree and/or disagree with the narrator as well as his American companion. You will be given a rare view into the ideas, upbringings and insights of a terrorist, whom after finishing this book you might not even be sure that's what he actually his. This story also ends on a large cliff hanger where you are left quite uneasy and unsure about what might have actually happened. I would personally recommend this book if you are capable of being openminded. This does not mean you have to agree with the narrator as I myself did not fully agree with him, but you will atleast have to see his point of view and learn to understand the events that can lead people down a certain road. I would would also like to add a small warning. This book contains a few, almost disturbingly graphic sex scenes so I would not hand this book to a child.
book-worm62 More than 1 year ago
This book was not exactly what I expected. As the ending began to take shape, I found myself able to identify less and less with the storyteller. Maybe because of the culture difference, but it seemed the young man telling the story was really biting the generous hand that was feeding him. I had a hard time figureing out what his romance had to do with the rest of the story. I didn't seem to have much to do with anything else. I found myself getting angry with alot of what sounded like assumptions on the narrator's part, like blaming the United States for Pakistan's trouble with India. I wanted to ask about his country's part in hiding Osama Bin Laudin and his being "pleased" at hearing about the attack on our country. I have not stopped thinking about this book since i finished it a couple of days ago. Of course, that very well might have been the author's intention. I read the book hoping to understand the mindset of someone who goes to these extremes in the name of patriotism, perhaps it is beyond my understanding. I did read this book in record time, I found it very interesting even if I didn't catch all of what the author was trying to convey. I would recommend it to anyone interested in the countries we are involved with and how the people feel about our involvment.
TulaneGirl More than 1 year ago
This book is written so that the reader feels the author is engaged in a private conversation with him or her. The author tells you on a story of a Pakistani man's love, money and politics in New York pre and post 9/11. The tension builds so that throughout the entire novel the reader is uncertain as to his or her relationship with the author and its outcome.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This author is talented. The story is captivating. The same tired lefty message, 'blame America for all the ills of the world',is disappointing.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I have both a natural curiosity and a professional interest of other cultures. This book did not disapoint! It is a wonderful read. I was almost angry at the ending... until I stepped away from it for awhile. When you've finished reading the book, step away from it and think about it. Look at it from the perspectives of all those involved. Why did they all feel/react the way they did?
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The writing is excellent; narrative, descriptions, flow. The story left me wondering if their wasn’t more...
CarolynSchroeder on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This little novel started very strong and overall was pretty intriguing, but it kind of fizzled at the end and got almost cliche or too silly to be taken seriously (which is too bad because it was very believable up until that point). Still, I thought it was good enough to recommend and the way Hamid built the tension was well done. The writing is also pretty good and it's a very fast read. The story is simply a one-sided narrative/conversation of a man from Pakistan (Changez) telling a bit about his life (or not - the reader is never really sure what is truth or what is fiction) and his beliefs as to America(ns) both before and after 9/11. Although from Pakistan, he had come to the States to study and find work, so he tells of that history. Changez sits down at the American's table in a cafe/restaurant and that is basically the entire novella, that tense conversation. We get little snippets of the American's thoughts and words through Changez's reaction, but he never really speaks/writes. The ending is one of those I call "choose your own ending" as it can be interpreted various ways. Anyway, recommended for something a bit off the beaten path and unique. As many readers have noted, this would make a good "book club" discussion because there are many topics to discuss so much of the conversation is up for different interpretations.
jayne_charles on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This is the story of a young Pakistani man living in New York at the time of the attacks on the World Trade Centre. Simply and calmly told, it is addressed to an unidentified American visiting Lahore, whose reactions to the story are made clear from the narrative though he never speaks directly.The use of the word `fundamentalist¿ in the novel¿s title led me to suppose this book might help explain why some Muslims adopt a hard line in terms of their religion, with regard to the rights of women and the rights of other faiths to exist. It isn¿t really about that, it is more to do with attitudes in the Muslim world towards America. The passage I found the most striking came some way in when the narrator was considering the reaction of the USA to 9/11 (¿It seemed to me...that America was engaged only in posturing. As a society you were unwilling to reflect upon the shared pain that united you with those who attacked you. You retreated into myths of your own difference, assumptions of your own superiority. And you acted out these beliefs on the stage of the world, so that the entire planet was rocked by the repercussions of your tantrums, not least my family, now facing war thousands of miles away.¿ ) This was perhaps the nearest the book came to making me understand the Muslim point of view, and I would have to concede that the escalating conflict between Pakistan and India to which the passage refers tends to get forgotten, eclipsed by the war in Iraq. So it¿s well written and I¿m glad I read it, but I wasn¿t totally convinced by the narrator¿s arguments by the end.
writestuff on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Changez is a Pakistani man, educated at Princeton, and brilliant enough to be chosen as one of the few to work at the prestigious New York firm of Underwood Samson. But, all changes after the attacks of 911. Changez tells his story to an unnamed American while they dine in a Pakistani marketplace several years after that fateful day. The reader is introduced to several intriguing characters, not the least of whom is the damaged Erica - Changez' love interest - whose mental stability is shaken by the terrorist attack on America and who slips into a more gentle world of her own imagination.It is not Changez's story per se which drives the narrative of this compelling novella, but the tone of his voice. Hamid has created a tale which is disturbing and thoughtful, one which questions our national loyalties and examines the distrust which has grown between the Middle East and the United States.When Changez talks of his attempt to assimilate, the reader is struck by the dishonesty of that attempt:'I attempted to act and speak, as much as my dignity would permit, more like an American. The Filipinos we worked with seemed to look up to my American colleagues, accepting them almost instinctively as members of the officer class of global business-and I wanted my share of that respect as well.' -From The Reluctant Fundamentalist, page 65-Later, Changez seems to recognize, for the first time, how ineffectual his efforts are:'Then one of my colleagues asked me a question, and when I turned to answer him, something rather strange took place. I looked at him - at his fair hair and light eyes and, most of all, his oblivious immersion in the minutiae of our work - and thought, you are so foreign.' -From The Reluctant Fundamentalist, page 67-Hamid's prose is exacting and filled with a subtle and disturbing tension. Through Changez's point of view, he reconstructs the anxiety and patriotism following the 911 attacks and provides a view of the United States which is less than flattering - an empire, of sorts, where financial and political concerns outweigh the personal. Changez's place of employment becomes symbolic of a greater force - that which forgets the past and focuses only on a future of wealth and personal gratification.But, the reader should not be fooled by what appears to be initially an anti-American view of the tensions between the United States and the Middle East (specifically Pakistan). Hamid's message is broader - questioning the essential mistrust on both sides; and providing us with a glimpse of the misunderstandings between governments, as well as people of different cultures.Mohsin Hamid has constructed a novella which is unsettling in this uncertain time of terrorist threats and the gloom of war in Iraq. It is not a book which is easy to toss aside...but, rather is one whose message should be considered deeply.Recommended.
TomMcGreevy on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
What a wonderful book - a nuanced, intelligent look at our contemporary world, focusing on the discovery of self in troubled times. The portrayal of the centrality of love in defining who we are is one that I will not forget for a long time. The first person narrative wore thin at times, but on the whole was remarkably effective.
DevourerOfBooks on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
¿The Reluctant Fundamentalist¿ is told by Changez as a monologue to an unnamed American man in a cafe in Lahore, Pakistan, although there is some dialogue in Changez¿s flashbacks. Although I had read an excerpt, I wasn¿t initially sure if this conceit would work for me for an entire book, but it did, probably thanks to all of the flashbacks.The only thing I wasn¿t really crazy about was the ending. Not because it was a bad ending, but because it was somewhat abrupt (purposefully, not by deficit of the author) and left you unsure precisely what had happened. Now, Hamid actually did this ending pretty well, but not knowing exactly what happened drives me a little crazy if I¿m able to see the characters of the book as real people, as I could see Changez. No, I don¿t want to use my imagination about what happened, I want to know what actually happened to him and the others! Generally, though, the fact that this annoyed me probably says good things about ¿The Reluctant Fundamentalist,¿ since I believed the main character and wanted to know his fate.
nossis on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
A few decades ago, before publishers felt the need to justify the eight dollar price tags of mass market paperbacks with page counts of 400 or more, a thriller novel could be as tightly plotted as any Hitchcock masterpiece¿and lean books like John LeCarre¿s The Spy Who Came In From the Cold were both global bestsellers and geopolitical commentaries at least as astute as most now forgotten serious non-fiction studies of the Communist Threat. By bloating themselves with romantic subplots and chase scenes, thrillers have lost much of their ability to thrill. Still, they sometimes find themselves ahead of the news. When Gorbachev and Reagan had warmed to one another, there was a brief period in which the United States seemed to have no significant foreign enemies. Serious scholars wrote about ¿the end of history,¿ and many joked that writers like LeCarre had been put out of business. Thriller writers, however, merely cast about for the next great threat. China was a top candidate for a time, but the Middle East quickly became the preferred source of villains.When the 9/11 attacks occurred it was widely noted that Tom Clancy¿s novel Debt of Honor included a passenger airliner being flown into the Capitol Building by a suicide pilot. (Not as noted: The pilot was not Muslim but Japanese.) The Turner Diaries also ended with a White Supremacist terrorist flying a plane into the White House, but that character was, of course, the hero of the novel. Still, the media image¿provided by thriller novels as well as the movies made from or inspired by them¿of the Islamic male as the author of spectacular mayhem was so widespread that not only did nearly everyone comment that the attacks seemed like something ¿out of a movie¿ but they had little doubt, before any evidence appeared, that Middle Eastern terrorists were responsible. This was not even something new. When the Federal Building in Oklahoma City was bombed the media immediately cast it as an act of Islamic terrorism. Even after Timothy McVeigh¿s arrest and conviction, some had trouble letting this notion go¿the theory that Sadaam Hussein was in collusion with McVeigh had currency amongst some in the White House who lobbied for the Iraq invasion of 2003. Indeed, when they were not in the news in connection with actual terrorist attacks, the only time most Americans heard or read about Middle Easterners was when they were represented as terrorists in thrillers.Now the Islamist terror and America¿s reaction to it is the dominant story of our time, one needn¿t even go to the supermarket for their fix of fictional representations. 24 provides a weekly supply of interrogation porn on television and respectable authors like John Updike and Martin Amis employ their powers to enter the minds of suicide bombers. But with the publication of The Reluctant Fundamentalist we get a literary perspective on current events that has been largely missing. The book¿s cover design does not shout thriller. It looks, in fact, with its image of an unshaven Pakistani man¿s face partially covered by strips of flag, like another of the many non-fictional memoirs that have appeared in the past few years, with subtitles such as My Two Years in Gitmo. And the fact that the author, Mohsin Hamid, was born in Pakistan and educated at Princeton and is writing about a character born in Pakistan and educated at Princeton, might lead one to suspect that this is, like many novels, a thinly veiled memoir. The word thriller does, however, appear on the front cover, in a blurb, and while this book doesn¿t even crack the 200 page mark and no murdered art historians are to be found within, it is a thriller, in the same sense that Graham Greene¿s entertainments were thrillers.Hamid¿s protagonist, Changez, speaks directly, and cordially, to ¿you,¿ an American (who may or may not be a tourist) at a café in Lahore. He assures you that he loves America and proceeds to tell his story. A lucrative position at a slightly cultlike New Yo
brenzi on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
¿Excuse me, sir, but may I be of assistance? Ah, I see I have alarmed you. Do not be frightened by my beard: I am a lover of America. I noticed that you were looking for something; more than looking, in fact you seemed to be on a mission, and since I am both a native of this city and a speaker of your language, I thought I might offer you my services.¿ (Page 1)So begins the creepiest one-sided conversation you¿ve never read. The underlying fury builds and builds as this novella progresses to its disturbing conclusion. The speaker, Changez, is a young Pakistani man whose conversation with an American (who never speaks) at an outdoor café in Lahore is the clever basis of the narrative. He was brought up in the privileged class of Pakistan and attended Princeton. After graduation, he is hired by a prestigious NYC firm and progresses onward toward the American dream. He¿s infatuated with fellow Princetonian Erica, who, unfortunately, is still in love with her deceased boyfriend and teetering on the edge of mental stability. Finally, events on 9/11 leave him feeling victimized and things fall apart for him, forcing him to re-examine his life, his opinion of the America he has come to know, and his definition of what home means to him.The author¿s intention is two-fold: to shock and to educate and he succeeds on both levels. After recovering from my growing anger over this Pakistani man¿s accusations and assumptions about the country I love, I found myself actually considering some of his claims and trying to put myself in his shoes and look at America from a foreign point of view. Hamid is a master at comparing the two sides with varying degrees of light and dark and I found myself having a very emotional reaction to all he had to say. Much of it is very hard to take:¿As a society you were unwilling to reflect upon the shared pain that united you with those who attacked you. You retreated into myths of your own difference, assumptions of your own superiority. And you acted out these beliefs on the stage of the world, so that the entire planet was rocked by the repercussions of your tantrums.¿ (Page 168)Eye-opening and brutally honest, seething suspense and drama make this a hard book to put down. Highly recommended.
Milda-TX on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Young Pakistani man living the American dream (Princeton education, great job in NYC) - how 9/11 changes his life. Beautiful writing; thought-provoking book.
tangledthread on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
The book is a first person narrative by Changez, a 25 year old Pakistani man who was educated at Princeton, graduated at the top of his class, and is hired by a prestigious Manhattan firm upon graduation. He delivers this autobiographical information to an American stranger in a cafe' in Lahore. The stranger is minimally identified as an American male, in a business suit, who uses an electronic communication device and is possibly armed.According to Changez, he lives the American dream post college graduation, and falls in love with a tragic, mentally ill, blonde classmate named Erica. Her name is significant in that it is the end of the word "America". The blonde is important because skin tone is referred to several times in the narrative.At work, Changez is mentored by Jim, who identifies with Changez's feelings of being an outsider and coaches him accordingly. There are veiled references that suggest Jim is gay, hence the references to his understanding of what it is to be successful as an outsider in American culture. Shortly after the attacks of Sept. 11, the relationship between Changez and Erica sours. Changez becomes distracted at work. Then following a trip home to Pakistan and an overseas assignment to Chile. he decides that he is living a lie and rebels against his supervisor in Chile. The result is job loss, and ultimately a return to Pakistan. He reveals that he is a lecturer at the University and has guided students in protests and opposition against the U.S., and suggests that may be the tip of the iceberg.The narrative at with the stranger is subtly threatening under a veneeer of graciousness...and yet at times Changez seems to feel threatened as well. The ending is left to the imagination of the reader. Perhaps the ending you imagine reveals your interpretation of the story and your assessment of the reliability of the narrator.Some reviews have commented that the book provides a view of Americans as other see us. Perhaps there's a grain of truth to that. I think the more important point is how the book reveals the raw and sometimes hyper-emotional reactions of young males as they emerge from insular adolescence and become aware of the largeness of the world. Others have commented on the dark humor in this book which I did not find. If one wants dark humor, read The White Tiger, which ironically takes place in India.
bookczuk on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
When I was in high school, the drama department put on a one-act play which had two characters in it. One was silent the entire play, the other carried on a one-sided conversation that made up the entire verbal context of the play. The concept fascinated me, and my friends and I spend a great deal of time debating which character had the harder role to play. I've periodically thought of that play and ruminated on the power of the device. I know I must have read other books that employed it, but The Reluctant Fundamentalist is probably the best example that I have come across of this device in literature.From the opening, "Excuse me, Sir, but may I be of assistance? Ah, I see I have alarmed you " , I was drawn in. The outline of the story is pretty simple: A young man, Changez, from Lahore, whose family has fallen on somewhat hard times from their earlier wealth a few generations back, was able to go to Princeton. Upon graduation, he was taken on at a very prestigious firm in New York City. He also began a complicated friendship (and one sided love) with Erica, a wealthy girl emotionally scarred by the death of her boyfriend before the story opened. As Changez struggled with his own conflicted psyche regarding his life in America and his relationship with Erica, the Twin Towers fell, his life unraveled and he returned to Pakistan. As the story begins, Changez has approached a man, who appears to be American, visiting Lahore. The entire book is Changez's side of the conversation between the two. The book seemed very allegorical as well as astute in observation. The perceptions of East to West and West to East were realistically drawn. Mohsin Hamid has used this story as a way to help open eyes to how we see each other, and see the world, as well as some of the problems that now plague our society, the misunderstandings, mistrust, antagonism and fears that serve to separate us and propagate more uncertainties. Indeed, the opening "Excuse me sir..." summarizes so much of the story. Thanks to World Book Night and ardachy for sending this my way. I'm actually thinking now it might be fun to BookRing this copy in the US and share the magic of WBN with other BookCrossers.
ladycato on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This is a curious book, and it didn't grab me as much as I hoped. Foremost, it's told in a monologue, and we know almost nothing about the man this is being narrated to. That alone has its weaknesses, specifically why a person would spill all their most sordid secrets to a total stranger. The protagonist Changez, is a young Pakistani man who falls in love - and out of love - with America. For this being in first person, Changez depicts himself quite well-rounded. There are a few times where he does incredibly stupid things and I had the profound urge to yell at him. I think the novel is at its strongest when dealing with Erica, the American girl Changez loves. That by itself is a haunting love story, even without all of the political accouterments.I wanted to be sucked into the story and into his mindset. I wanted to see how a man who loves America might fall by the wayside. I didn't find Changez's journey to be believable. Maybe it needed more emphasis on the racism after 9/11. Maybe I just wanted to see more rage on his part, more cold rationality. I'm left feeling... wishy-washy.As for the ending... I don't know quite what to think.
ruinedbyreading on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Changez is living the American dream. He¿s top in his class at Princeton, working for a successful evaluation firm, and falling in love. Until tragedy strikes on 9/11 and Changez¿s initial reaction is to smile. But he is far from an extremist. Following 9/11 he begins to see his position in elite Manhattan society slip, his work begins to fall short, and he suffers an identity crisis. So he gets himself fired and heads back to Lahore, which is where we find him today - narrating his life story to a suspicious tourist over tea and dinner.I thought the way in which this story is told was original and unlike anything I had read before. We hear Changez¿s story through a completely one sided conversation he¿s having with this American tourist. Any knowledge the reader has of what this tourist is saying or doing is if Changez repeats his questions in his answer.The subject matter touched upon in this book is also something I think that needs to be discussed. Here we find a man who has nothing against America - it has provided him with an education, a prosperous job, and a beautiful woman. Yet these feelings of rage and hate still lurk under the surface. Not even Changez knows they exist until they surface after the attacks. I would venture to say that these feelings Changez experiences are far more common than we think, and they do not necessarily make one a bad person. I personally can relate to some of the sentiments expressed in this book, and I¿m far from an extremist or someone who hates America. I¿m also sure many of my friends and acquaintances could easily find something to relate to in Changez¿s story.The ending is definitely a cliff hanger, and I had a feeling something of the sort would happen at the very end. The ending is abrupt and it leaves the reader craving much more of Changez¿s story.Hamid is a gifted author, and The Reluctant Fundamentalist is an exciting page turner that explores a very delicate but relevant subject. I would recommend it to everyone.
joshberg on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This compact tale of a young Pakistani man forced to leave New York and return to his home country after 9/11 makes for a gripping read. True, there's a slightly contrived element to the narrative (that I'm not going to give away here), but the protagonist is fascinating, the story suspenseful, and the writing impressively self-assured. The novel manages to make a statement of social, cultural, and political weight, and be a breeze to read at the same time.