The Reluctant Fundamentalist Paperback – 28 Mar 2013
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Prods the intellect, quickens the pulse and captures the imagination(Sunday Times)
Gripping... remains taut until the final pages...an elegant and sharp indictment of the clouds of suspicion that now shroud our world (Observer)
A quietly told, cleverly constructed fable of infatuation and disenchantment with America, set on the treacherous faultlines of current east/west relations, and finely tuned to the ironies of mutual - but especially American - prejudice and misrepresentation...increasingly tense...genuinely provocative...intelligent, highly engaging (Guardian)
Elegant, provocative . . . beautifully measured prose . . . a delicate meditation on the nature of perception and prejudice (Daily Mail)
Masterful . . . A multi-layered and thoroughly gripping book, which works as a poignant love story, a powerful dissection of how US imperialist machinations have turned so many people against the world's superpower - and as a thriller that subtly ratchets up the nerve-jangling tension towards an explosive ending (Metro)
The Reluctant Fundamentalist is an important book (Evening Standard)
A fantastic piece of work, superbly considered and controlled, with a lovely stillness and wisdom at its heart (The Times)
Beautifully written (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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The conversation is enigmatic. Changez is a delightful host, unfailingly polite and obliging to the suspicious, surly American, who, we infer, is clearly worried that this whole conversation is some kind of set up. Is he imagining these threats? Is he ruining a lovely meal with a charming man due to some kind of delusion?
These is much delusion in this book. We see characters who classify fundamentalism as an insane state of mind confined to a few crazy religious people who come from somewhere vaguely east. Changez’s story, however, makes it clear that there are all kinds of fundamentalism, ranging from the business philosophy of New York consultancy firms, to the idealised love affairs of vulnerable young women. Confining the idea of fundamentalism to one set of circumstances and people is a fundamental misunderstanding.
The result of this misunderstanding is a kind of paranoid delusion. Just as Changez’s American dining companion imagines an attentive waiter as a possible assassin, America itself became delusional about terrorism after 9/11. The 9/11 attacks led to the deaths of 2990 people, which it goes without saying was a terrible thing. From 2001 until 2013 there were a further 390 American deaths from terrorism, almost all of them overseas. This compares to 406,496 deaths from American firearms in the same period – according to figures from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention at the U.S. State Department. Deaths caused by Americans shooting themselves and each other, are 100 times greater than those resulting from terrorism. Yet it is the terrorist threat that Americans fear, while their own far more lethal guns and attitudes are expressions of “freedom”. The aim is always to find an outside threat, some other people to count as crazy fundamentalists. Changez tries to explain this to his guest:
“As a society… you retreated into myths of your own difference, assumptions of your own superiority.”
This trend is only gathering force. CNN compiled the above comparison figures for terrorist and American gun related deaths in 2015. They did so at the encouragement of President Obama, following a gun outrage at an Oregon college. In 2016, millions of Americans decided it was a good idea to replace President Obama with a man who is only interested in creating outside threats against which he can rage.
All of these delusions sit behind the fictional, enigmatic meal shared by Changez and his American guest. Is this a peaceful meal or an attempted assassination? If the American’s suspicions are misplaced, might those suspicions themselves result in real trouble? Similarly, Pakistani fears could themselves lead to a violent outcome. Is the American reaching into his pocket for a phone or a gun? Is it wise to wait and find out? This might only be fiction writing, but this is a good place to explore the dangerous power of fictions as they collide with the real world.
The Reluctant Fundamentalist reminds me how important books are. This book is even more significant now than it was when first published in 2007. Books challenge stagnant patterns of thought and open up different points of view. Perhaps that’s why totalitarian leaders don’t like them.
A book to make you think - about capitalism, about what we count success, and about Western 21st century ways.
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