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The Reluctant Fundamentalist Hardcover – 1 Mar 2007

4.0 out of 5 stars 343 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 192 pages
  • Publisher: Hamish Hamilton Ltd; First Edition edition (1 Mar. 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0241143659
  • ISBN-13: 978-0241143650
  • Product Dimensions: 14.2 x 2 x 22.3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (343 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 294,627 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

Review

"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."--Philip Pullman

From the Inside Flap

At a cafe 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 the elite valuation firm of Underwood Samson. 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 eclipsed by the reawakened ghosts of her past. And Changez s own identity is in seismic shift as well, unearthing allegiances more fundamental than money, power, and maybe even love.
"The Reluctant Fundamentalist "is a riveting, brilliantly unsettling exploration of the shadowy, unexpected connections between the political and the personal. " --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
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.
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Format: Hardcover
There is nothing bloated or overdone about Mohsin Hamid's The Reluctant Fundamentalist. Yet this sparse, finely cropped short novel tackles some of the challenging issues. Changez, a Pakistani Muslim from a once wealthy family in Lahore, experiences his own version of the American Dream when his talent and his Princeton scholarship lead him to a high-flying job in the world of New York finance and to relationship with a beautiful, enigmatic all-American girl who represents his passport into high society as well. But, over aromatic food and exotic drinks back in Lahore, Changez relates in a one-sided conservation with an American traveller how he never felt entirely at ease and how the attacks on the World Trade Centre and the subsequent repercussions - both political and personal ones - roused him from his American Dream: his reluctance to follow the advice of his mentor in business to focus on the fundamentals is replaced by an hankering to concentrate on fundamentals of a very different sort.

Yet at times the very sparsity which makes the novel so compelling leaves the reader in a void of ignorance. One is, for instance, driven to seek to understand Changez's conversion but the text provides so little challenge to Changez's narrative that it is left flimsy, incomplete and thus unresolved. This is perhaps Hamid's intention - to set out clearly that there are no easy answers; that Westerners will always fail to understand the East. In that sense this is a deeply unsettling novel and leaves one wishing for just a little more, a little more insight, a little more depth. The sense of `unfinishnessed' is only heightened by the ambiguous, unresolved but perfectly composed ending.
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Format: Hardcover
This slim, beautifully written book is written as a monologue spoken by a young man, born and living in Pakistan, but educated in America. He is telling his life story to an American stranger in Lahore.

This outwardly simple book is packed full of ideas. There are themes of loss and grief, but also of nostalgia, of the dangerous slide of both countries and individuals who lose wealth and influence but retain the pride of earlier days, best illustrated in the lines "As I have already told you I did not grow up in poverty. But I did grow up with a poor boys sense of longing, in my case not for what my family had never had, but for hat we had had and lost. Some of my relatives held onto imagined memories the way homeless people hold onto lottery tickets. Nostalgia was their crack cocaine, if you will, and my childhood was littered with the consequences of their addiction: unserviceable debts, squabbles over inheritances, the odd alcoholic or suicide."

There is a sophisticated analysis of the imperial nature of America, with discussion of how the brightest and best of the developing world are trained as "janissaries", isolated from their cultural roots without fully being assimilated into their masters these child soldiers have nothing to do but work or fight for their adopted nation.

This novel is not political dialectic, it is intensely personal, and that is why it works so well. It encompasses a repeatedly thwarted love affair, which is drawn wonderfully well and a brilliant sense of place.

The reader knows, throughout the book that they are not getting everything from the aptly named Changez; he is an unreliable narrator because of what is omitted, but what he tells you feels true, intense and is not the usual, superficial analyses.

A book with real depth.
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Format: Hardcover
WARNING: SPOILERS

I am responding to some of the criticisms of the book in other reviews(that it is simply anti-American), which I feel have completely misunderstood it. The premise of the book is a conversation between Changez (a Pakistani who used to live in New York) and an American. The conversation occurs in Changez's home town, Lahore and the narrative reports Changez's side of the conversation, so it reads like a monologue. As they talk throughout the day, Changez reports his time in America and the reason he is now living in Pakistan. In so doing, he highlights the post 9/11 tensions between America and Muslim countries.

One criticism below is that the book is simply anti-American and distastefully so. I would strongly disagree. The narrative seemed to me to be a love story between the Pakistani narrator, Changez, and the nation of America. The character's gradual disillusionment with America is counterbalanced by his love for it and longing to be part of it, and there is a hint at some disgust at himself for still having such a connection with it, through Erica, an American girl he fell in love with.

Another criticism made in these reviews is that his change of heart towards America is not adequately explained. I think in this case, 'less is more'. The fact that his 'falling out of love' with America is not fully explained seems perfectly natural: many divorcees find it difficult to explain their breakdown of relationship. The gradual distancing of himself from American culture is as much about a psychological struggle to reconcile his true identity as it is a critique on the country's politics.

Hamid seems to hold in tension throughout the narrative this 'love-hate' relationship between East and West and does it with great subtlety and art.
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