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The Importance of Tribe
on 25 September 2012
This was a book club choice and since Mann Booker shortlist books are often a bit of a struggle, as is the perceived topic of Islamic fundamentalism, I was not particularly looking forward to it. But in fact it's very good. Yes, it's a soliloquy, but it avoids verbosity, and it flows smoothly. For some reason I'd expected that the lead character was a worthy, ethical medic, but in fact he's a Princeton business graduate and a soccer enthusiast. But he's caught between two cultures nonetheless. And that, of course, is the theme of this book: to quote a phrase from it, "the importance of tribe".
We see the clash of Pakistani tradition versus a complex US culture, hard nosed yet psychotic (not the easiest mix). But had it not been for 9/11 there might not have been a problem for Changez, the narrator.
This is a book to make you think, not to make you feel happy. I didn't particularly like Changez, nor his neurotic American girlfriend, nor the enigmatic "sir" he is talking to. I don't think I was supposed to. But the message of the book registered with me.